Is this energy policy really clean and green?April 24th, 2009 by Barry Potier
A major overhaul of the UK’s coal-power ambitions was revealed on Thursday, with the government pledging not to allow any new coal plants unless a proportion of their carbon dioxide emissions are buried underground. No new coal-fired power stations will be built in Britain from now on unless they capture and bury at least 25% of greenhouse gases immediately and 100% by 2025.
Mr. Miliband, said the new policy balanced three challenges: the need to ensure the security of the UK’s energy supply, the need to build a low-carbon economy and the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
In a reversal of energy policy, which represents a major victory for the new DECC and the green pressure groups, the government will direct the building of four energy “clusters”, generating a total of 2.5GW of electricity, on the east coast of Britain.
Each cluster will have at least one major new coal-fired power station able to collect carbon emissions and transport them out to sea, where they will be buried in redundant oil or gas fields.
The new power stations, the first to be built in over 30 years, are not expected to come onstream until 2015. They will be sited in the Thames Gateway, on the rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, with a possible fifth on Merseyside. The government envisages oil and coal companies linking to reduce emissions from coal-powered electricity generation by up to 60% by 2025.
These proposals will be costly and ministers are still discussing how to fund the expensive and unproven carbon capture and storage technology, including a possible levy on customer bills. However, Treasury officials have balked at the cost and a less ambitious plan, starting with two or three plants, is also on the table.
Ministers have already delayed announcing permission for the first proposed new coal plant, at Kingsnorth, Kent, because of wrangling over the cost of CCS, said to have risen to between £750m and £1.5bn for the first trial alone.
This change in policy raises some interesting questions. Fuel poverty campaigners say 6m householders are already struggling to pay for gas and electricity. How will they react if their fuel bills rise yet further to fund as yet unproven technology?
The proposal states that at least 25% of CO2 emissions must be buried immediately, but that leaves a potential 75% of harmful greenhouse gases contributing yet further to climate change. Is this really a truly green proposal?
And what happens if the CCS technology doesn’t work? Will the government step in and close these new power stations subjecting us to electricity rationing and a legacy of riverside white elephants?
As always, we’d love to hear your views…