The iconic 600ft chimney at Longannet, Scotland’s last remaining coal-fired power station, was today (Thursday 9 December) brought down in a controlled explosion by ScottishPower, marking a milestone moment in the UK’s journey to net zero emissions.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pushed the button to ignite 700kg of explosives, bringing down the chimney stack which has dominated the Firth of Forth skyline for more than 50 years and was, until today, the country’s tallest freestanding structure.
The demolition of a major part of what was once the largest power station in Europe marks a significant step in the UK’s transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.
Scotland has been coal-free since ScottishPower closed the station in 2016. The energy company now only generates 100% green electricity through its wind and solar farms.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Today’s event is a symbolic reminder that we have ended coal-fired power generation in Scotland, as we work in a fair and just way towards becoming a Net Zero nation by 2045.
“Our goal is to generate 50% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, and Scotland’s energy sector is well placed to deliver on the key investments in renewables, hydrogen and energy storage required to achieve this.
“Growth in these sectors over the next decade will be transformative for Scotland, delivering further good, green jobs, strengthened energy security, and benefits for local communities as we decarbonise industry and society to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, in a way that leaves no one behind.”
Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, ScottishPower said: "At COP26 in Glasgow, we were proud to show the world that Scotland has already made coal history. As a 100% energy company, we are committed to helping the UK end its reliance on fossil fuels.
“For half a century, Longannet’s chimney has dominated the Firth of Forth skyline. We bade farewell to that landmark today – however this is a landmark day for Scotland too. Watching the chimney of Scotland’s last coal-fired station fall today represents a real milestone, as the UK moves away from the large polluting power stations of the past and accelerates down the road to net zero emissions.
“We already know the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is essential to minimise the worst impacts of global warming and address the climate emergency.”
Ignacio Galán, Chairman of ScottishPower and Iberdrola, said: “Longannet played an important role in Scotland’s history as its largest coal station, but the future can only be about clean energy. Everyone working at ScottishPower and the wider Iberdrola Group should be proud to be contributing to this impressive transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
“This transition is essential to minimise the worst impacts of global warming and address the climate emergency. We made significant progress in Glasgow. Nice words or promises about 2040 or 2050 are not enough anymore, we need delivery. Iberdrola will continue to invest billions of pounds in renewables, smarter grids and storage to become net zero in Europe by 2030, providing abundant and competitive electricity and creating opportunities for industrial development and jobs across the value chain.”
Beginning generation in 1970, Longannet Power Station at Kincardine-on-Forth in Fife was the largest coal fired power station in Europe when first built and remained Scotland's largest coal-fired power station until its closure by ScottishPower on March 31st 2016, marking the end of 47 years of fossil fuel production and ensuring Scotland’s coal-free future.
At the height of operations, it burnt coal from around the world including Scottish open-cast coal and coal from as far away as Russia and Colombia. Typically, it consumed 4 million tonnes of coal per year and at full production could produce enough electricity to power two million homes.
Prior to the demolition event and following on from COP26 in Glasgow and its ‘Climate Pact’ to move the world further away from fossil fuels, ScottishPower projected the Global Warming Stripes onto the chimney along with the slogan ‘Make Coal History’ in a call to action for other countries to follow Scotland’s lead.
Created by Professor Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading, they show the change in global temperature from 1850 to 2020, with shades of blue showing cooler-than-average years and red show years that were hotter-than-average.
ScottishPower is the UK’s only integrated energy company which generates 100% green electricity from offshore and onshore wind. As a Principal Partner of the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference, ScottishPower is committed to supporting UK efforts to reduce coal consumption across the country.
It is developing an energy model that will play a significant role in reaching the UK’s world-leading climate change targets and is investing £10billion in the UK over five years – £6 million every working day – to double its renewable generation capacity and drive forward decarbonisation to support the move towards net zero emissions.
Its plans include new solar, wind and battery infrastructure, green hydrogen facilities and undertaking the mammoth task of upgrading parts of the country’s energy network to accommodate the expected rapid increase in demand for electricity.
The demolition of Longannet is being carried out by ScottishPower contractor Brown & Mason and work to remove materials at the site will continue into 2022.