Who were those guys?

Here’s a south of the border mystery, but none the less interesting for that. According to The Times, Kingsnorth coal power plant in Kent was partially shut down for four hours last Friday night after ‘persons unknown’ scaled an electric fence, entered a secure area and switched off one of four turbines supplying London and the South East. They then made  a successful escape, pausing only to leave a series of messages opposing new coal power stations strewn across the turbine hall. It may have been a lone operator – the Guardian refers to ‘green Banksy’.

Apparently 500MW of generating capacity was lost to the national grid for about four hours after turbine Unit Two was shut down – 2 per cent of total UK consumption at the time, and enough to power a city the size of Bristol.

No one yet knows who carried out the protest and, unlike large environmental organisations with highly-trained media officers, no one is claiming responsibility. Kingsnorth owners E.ON apparently suspect some of their own employees, but I’m not so sure. My personal favourite theory right now is that it was handiwork of the ‘Climate Avengers’, next-generation superheros riding to our rescue to thwart the dastardly plans of climate-muggers like E.ON, who are determined to pump massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere in search of a quick profit.

Ok, so that’s probably (oh all right, certainly) a bit of wishful thinking. But who ever it was would seem to have both their hearts and brains are definitely in the right place. E.ON has earmarked Kingsnorth as the site for Britain’s first new coal-fired power station in 30 years. The existing plant, one of Britain’s largest (with a generating capacity of 1,960 megawatts), is fast approaching retirement age. To replace it with a like-for-like new coal plant flies in the face of sanity, given what we know about coal’s contribution to climate-wrecking CO2 emissions, yet that’s just what E.ON are intending to do.

The company’s defended its plans by saying that the new plant, designated Kingsnorth 2, would be fitted with equipment designed to strip out carbon dioxide for safe storage. But carbon capture and storage (CCS) remains an experimental technology, and one which has yet to be successfully demonstrated on a commercial scale anywhere in the world. If built as E.ON are proposing, the annual CO2 output from Kingsnorth 2 would be equal to that of the 30 least-polluting nations in the world.

Given the well documented threat of climate-change facing the whole world, and the fact that the UK is blessed with the best renewable energy potential in Europe, E.ON’s ill-conceived plan makes no sense, and has to be stopped in it’s tracks. Following the success of the Kingsnorth Six trial earlier in the year opposition to new coal plants is definitely making progress all over Britain, but I think we could all benefit from a little super-heroic help in that area. So, whoever you are – ‘Go Climate Avengers, go!’

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