STAFF at Didcot power station insisted that the closure of coal-fired Didcot A Power Station was “premature” after power giants predicted looming blackouts.

Perth-based utility company SSE has announced the closure of almost a quarter of its power stations in the UK.

And chief executive Ian Marchant has accused the Government of underestimating the scale of the capacity shortfall the country faces.

The warning came weeks after electricity and gas regulator Ofgem raised concerns of “uncomfortably tight” power generation capacity in the years ahead, and said energy prices would be volatile.

Didcot A, run by RWE npower, was shut down yesterday under European Union rules to reduce pollution.

After reaching the limit of 20,000 hours of power generation since 2008, it was shut down at 2pm.

Colin Quinton, 60, from Sutton Courtenay, an operations and engineering support coordinator who has worked there since 1980, said: “I think it’s too early to close it.

“Some power stations have been fitted with flue gas desulphurisation which extends their lifespan.

“I think it costs about £100m to do it, but Didcot A could then have remained open until 2020. However, RWE npower decided not to do it.

“You can’t rely on solar power or wind turbines and I think you need nuclear power to provide a baseline.”

But station manager Phil Noake said two new gas-fired power stations at Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire and Pembrokeshire in Wales were already producing more power than Didcot.

RWE npower has invested about £3bn over the past three years in renewable and flexible gas-fired power stations in the UK.

Mr Noake added: “As a company we have to look to clean energy.

“I would like to thank all those in the local community who have supported us over the years, and thank our staff for their continued dedication and wish them success for their future.”

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “It was very emotional to see the power station close and there is a huge amount of affection for it in the area.

“Its capacity has been more than replaced by two gas-fired power stations so I am confident that there will not be a capacity crunch.

“It’s sad to see it shut down but I don’t think it is closing prematurely and gas-fired power stations are more environmentally-friendly.

“It’s a sad day because Didcot A Power Station has been a good friend and neighbour to Didcot.”

During its lifetime, Didcot A has provided electricity to millions of homes and businesses across the UK.