Carbon capture plans threaten shutdown of all UK coal-fired power stations

Well, well! As we suspected, it seems that carbon capture might prove too costly for coal. Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is proposing to extend his plans to force companies to fit carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) onto new coal plants – as revealed by the Guardian – to cover a dozen existing coal plants. The consultation published by his Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) conceded that if this happened “we could expect them to close”.

And DECC has finally given some insight into when the Government’s competition to build the first commercial-scale CCS demonstration project might announce a winner –  autumn 2010 at the earliest. Meanwhile, Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife is looking ever more likely to win the competition. Of the three bids remaining in the competition, only Longannet is a retrofit. Kingsnorth & Tilbury would be new-builds and the argument, made by WWF and others, is that new-builds mean additional CO2 emissions whereas retrofitting carbon capture technology to existing power stations means a cut in emissions. But won’t new-builds replace old power stations?

According to the Guardian article, a spokesman for a company operating several coal plants in the UK said that even if Miliband did not carry out his threat and force existing coal plants to fit expensive CCS equipment, any further restrictions on their operation would be likely to result in their closure. “It will probably prove too difficult and expensive to fit CCS to plants nearing the end of their lifespan”. So how has Longannet managed it? Well, it’s only capturing a small amount of CO2 and even scaled up, it will only capture around one-eighth of the plant’s CO2. So much is being invested in CCS when we really need investment in reducing energy demand and localising supply. But that’s probably too big an ask.

SANC would like answers to these questions: If the demonstration at Longannet works, will Scottish Power commit to fitting CCS to all 4 boilers? If so, when? If not, why not? And if the demonstration does not work, will Scottish Power commit to closing Longannet immediately? It would also be good to know why Scotland can’t take the lead in renewables and localised energy provision. We have the skills and the renewable energy sources, we just lack the political will – and that’s because the people haven’t raised their voices for real change…yet.

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