Coal fired power stations should clean up or close
The Environment Audit Committee says the government is wrong in its view that a carbon market on its own will be enough to persuade power generating companies to invest in "clean coal".
Its latest report warns that progress in this area is "extremely disappointing" and that coal-fired power stations should have a deadline set to adopt clean technologies or else close down, as they generate double the carbon dioxide when compared to a gas-burning facility of equilavent power.
The committee heard that five or six new coal-burning stations may be built in the UK by 2015. Gas price hikes are causing generators to increasingly look to coal as a cheaper and more reliable alternative.
The UK government believes that the answer is "clean coal", particularly technologies which capture carbon from the flue gases and store it away in natural underground voids, perhaps under the sea bed. But the technology is expensive and makes a power station less efficient, increasing the amount of fuel burned by 10-40%.
The government's main strategy is that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will give companies an economic incentive to invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS) when the carbon price rises sufficiently.
But the Environment Audit Committee heard Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks admit this may not happen.
"We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all," said committee chairman Tim Yeo MP.
"It is absolutely crucial for the government to tell the industry that carbon capture and storage will be required, and that coal-fired power stations will not be permitted to operate unabated."
The committee says the government must set a date by which companies must have adopted CCS, or face closure of their installations - though it does not suggest which date should be adopted.
Article Date: 22 July 2008
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