UK Debates Coal

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change recently released a statement that proposed an energy future for the country that would not include coal-fired power plants that did not adopt carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

However, in an April 27th issue of The Times newspaper, the same government official that proposed the CCS requirement asked world leaders to admit that coal will be around in energy production for the long-haul. Some newspapers and officials labeled this an ‘about face’ on the recent CCS proposal.

Last week, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband set out to Parliament proposals for the basis on which coal fired power which will be permitted in the future. First, the Secretary proposed that no new coal without CCS demonstration from day one will be built. Second, he proposed a full-scale retrofit of CCS within five years of the technology being independently judged as technically and commercially proven.

The UK government will also seek views on whether it is possible to implement these conditions through an emissions performance standard.

These proposals form part of a consultation that will be released in the summer, alongside an environmental report.

Ed Miliband said, “The future of coal in our energy mix poses the starkest dilemma we face: it is a polluting fuel but is used across the world because it is cheap and it is flexible enough to meet fluctuations in demand for power. In order to ensure that we maintain a diverse energy mix, we need new coal-fired power stations but only if they can be part of a low carbon future.”

The new demonstrations will be funded by an incentive mechanism as announced by the Chancellor. Proposals for how the incentive will work are being developed.
Coal currently accounts for 37% (29GW) of the UK’s electricity capacity, generating 31% of the UK’s electricity in 2008. That is set to decline to 21GW as stations close in accordance with EU controls on sulphur and nitrogen emissions that cause acid rain. Coal is an abundant source of fuel and carbon abated coal has a role to play in the future mix, providing diversity alongside renewables, nuclear and gas.

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