TILBURY Power Station marked the end of an era as the 57-year-old station powered down for the final time.

Workers, bosses and former employees watched on as the switch was thrown on Tuesday that means the monster power hub will produce no more electricity.

The plant itself will not close until October 31, by which time 220 workers will have been handed redundancy packages and as many as 300 people will be out of work.

The giant station, based on Fort Road, had to switch off its generator after it came to the end of its ‘operational life’. Bosses at RWE nPower chose to opt out of the 2008 EU directive that it could only continue to generate energy until the end of 2015 or for 20,000 more hours - that expired at noon on Tuesday.

Tilbury Power Plant manager Nigel Staves held back tears as he addressed the workforce and thanked them all for their commitment and loyalty over the years.

He said: “This is the end of an era. We have enjoyed a colourful life and I can’t thank all of you enough for your hard work. We have been a pioneer for the development of biomass in the UK and will be remembered as such.”

Mark Southgate, 51, from Connaught Avenue, Grays has been a Health and Safety officer onsite since 2008 but has worked there since 2000.
He said: “It is very frustrating for us as this is a decision that we cannot change or influence. I am finding it extremely difficult to find another job but have been looking in the construction centre.

"The trouble is who wants to hire a 51-year-old not from that sector? The management have done everything they can to ensure we stay open but it wasn’t going to happen.”

Last year, RWE applied for environmental permits, intending to keep the plant open as the world's biggest biomass burner. However, bosses announced that the project was on hold whilst its feasibility was assessed.

The plant will be ‘mothballed’ meaning it will not be destroyed and options for its future include seeking to re-license and re-permit the existing station to new plant standards, meaning it could reopen as a dedicated biomass power or sold to another operator, if a buyer can be found.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Thurrock MP, said: “I am gutted that the new biomass station will not now be developed. The staff have worked so hard over the last two years to explore biomass generation.

"I have had lengthy discussions with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Prime Minister to see what could be done to encourage the investment but sadly it was not to be. It is regrettable that so much money has been thrown at subsidising wind when Tilbury would have generated serious power to the national grid.

"The workers will be the main casualties, but we will all pay through higher electric bills if investments like this do not go ahead."