The Ferrybridge coal plant in West Yorkshire is to close within a year, energy company SSE announced on Wednesday, saying it will lose money otherwise.
The move, described as “devastating” for workers, comes amid rising costs at the 48-year-old power station, which is forecast to lose £100m over the next five years.
This, combined with the impact of environmental legislation and the political consensus that coal has a limited role in the future, make it unsustainable, said SSE.
Paul Smith, SSE managing director of generation, said: “This was a very difficult decision to take because of the impact on our Ferrybridge employees, their families and the community.”
The company said it would shut the coal-fired plant on the West and North Yorkshire border by March 2016.
Union leaders described the closure as “devastating news” for the plant’s 172 employees, even though SSE said it would redeploy staff where possible.
“It's been known for many years that the UK would have to phase out coal as it moves towards a more sustainable energy mix, Smith said.
“We've sought to protect jobs and invest in the site to keep it running for as long as we possibly could but ultimately we've had to make this regrettable decision.”
Adjusted pre-tax profit for the 12 months to the end of March was £1.56bn, compared with £1.55bn the year before for the plant. It lost 500,000 customers in the period, which it blamed on competition from smaller providers.
But SSE said it was committed to the Ferrybridge site, with a £300m multi-fuel plant next to the power station due to open before the end of the year expected to create 46 jobs. The company has also submitted plans to build another multi-fuel station at the site.
Phil Whitehurst, national officer of the GMB union, said: “This is devastating news for Ferrybridge workers at a station that has years of life left to supply electricity, at a fraction of the price of other energy suppliers.
“As things stand, the only thing consumers will get from some of these suppliers are higher bills.
“Unlike Ferrybridge none of the components and little of the labour will be sourced from the UK.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley, tweeted: “Dreadful news that SSE plan to close Ferrybridge C next year inc 170 local jobs. Seeking urgent meetings with SSE, union & workforce.”