UK Coal is Britain’s biggest coal producer, and the firm is adamant that generators should pay more for using coal at power stations, reflecting the increasing price of coal on the global commodity markets.

The company’s CEO Gerry Spindler told the Times newspaper that he was looking for the UK government to help in ensuring the new contracts that are agreed with the generators will reflect the increased price of coal.

I believe that the Department of Trade and Industry understands the need for coal. Fifty per cent of our power came from coal over the past five months and I believe that the DTI appreciates the value of an indigenous industry, Mr Spindler was quoted as saying.

The moves come as coal is slowly being rehabilitated as a fuel for power generation, at least in the short to medium term. The UK is facing a much publicized ‘energy gap’ as wholesale gas prices soar and much of the nuclear generating fleet nears the end of its working life.

Clean coal technology is being advocated as a means of ensuring this relatively plentiful resource can continue to play its part in the energy mix. However in the UK, the domestic coal industry was decimated in the 1980s and 1990s amid a ‘dash to gas’ in the power generation sector, meaning that the remaining coal powered stations in Britain are largely dependent on imports.

This in itself causes an added headache as it is proving increasingly difficult to find the necessary capacity on the rail network to transport imported coal, the traditional favored mode of delivering coal to power plants.

As if to illustrate the point, the key arterial route for imported coal from the west coast ports of Scotland to the power stations of Yorkshire and the east Midlands is currently closed for emergency repairs, which observers say are required to correct the damage caused by unforeseen quantities of coal being moved over life-expired infrastructure.