Viewpoint: Preventing high emissions from old coal busting the UK’s carbon budgets

Joss Garman
Joss Garman is Greenpeace's Political Director
Cooling towers at Ferrybridge coal power station
License: by-nc. Credit: Steve Morgan

Documents recently released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reveal that the government’s “central scenario” for UK power generation over coming decades could see legally-binding carbon targets breached because of significant carbon emissions resulting from an unexpectedly large role for old coal-fired power stations right through to 2030.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) who advise the government on what is required to hit carbon targets have warned for the past three years that in order to stay within the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets all coal-fired power stations in the UK must either be fully abated with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, or shut down, by “the early 2020s.”

Lord Turner, previously the head of the CCC, said:

“We were clear in our report that there can be no role for conventional coal generation in the UK beyond the early 2020s.”

But in the “central scenario” for DECC’s 2012 energy projections, the government foresee there will still be 10.3 GW of coal-burning power plant on the system in 2024, and 7.1GW in 2029. Though generation itself is expected to tail off towards the end of the decade as the Treasury’s carbon floor price kicks in.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plans abandoned

For a long time, Ministers have claimed the answer to the problem of high emissions levels from both coal-fired power stations and gas plants would be Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.

The coalition agreement commits the government to four CCS coal demonstration projects. But in recent weeks it has been reliably rumoured that Ministers have cut this to one or two projects, which may be on either gas or coal plant. It also emerged the UK lost EU funding for proposed CCS projects. So whilst the government has always indicated it expected a bigger role for CCS through the 2020s and into the following decades, these plans now look extremely shaky.

When Ed Davey launched the government’s “CCS roadmap,” he said it “sets out how we will achieve our goal of seeing commercial deployment of CCS in the UK in the 2020s.” But now we know that in the government’s “central scenario” they are projecting that between 2017 and 2030 there will only be one small-scale CCS coal demonstration project in operation in the UK. Equally, the same scenario document projects there will only be 1.1GW of gas CCS by 2026 rising to 2.7GW of gas CCS by 2030.

This vision contrasts strongly with the CCC’s latest “illustrative scenario” (p5) in which they project 15% of the fossil fuel mix of the UK power sector would be CCS by 2030. This equates roughly to 69TWh, which at base load would be around 9GW. So the CCC figure sees three times more CCS than in the government scenario.

All this is particularly significant just now because a key defence mounted by the Energy Secretary Ed Davey in defending the consistency of burning fossil fuels with the carbon targets has been that CCS could keep emissions down.

A solution

DECC’s projections suggest that despite the remaining capacity the rising carbon floor price may provide a limit to coal generation, at least beyond the mid 2020’s. But that limited backstop depends on the Treasury sticking with its plans to relentlessly drive up the price of carbon irrespective of what happens in the wider carbon market. Anyone who has paid attention to the debate over fuel duty, and recent statements from the Chancellor, will know that is not a given.

To prevent excessive emissions from coal-fired power stations like Drax in the 2020s and beyond, the government’s new Energy Bill should state clearly that significant life extensions through re-fits or upgrades to old coal-fired power stations will be covered by their new Emissions Performance Standard (EPS).

Right now, the government are proposing that these new emissions controls would only apply to newly built coal burning projects, but the EPS should clearly be expected to cover all those coal plant seeking to continue operation in coming decades and not just new ones.

Viewpoint pieces reflect the view of the author and/or his or her organisation. 

The Energydesk team is away over Christmas so whilst the magic of technology allows these stories to be published in our absence we won't be able to respond to comments until 7 January - however we will then do our utmost to get up to speed. Many apologies in advance, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. 

Comments Add new comment

I'm gone to tell my little brother, that he should also go
to see this website on regular basis to take updated from newest news update.

Great blog here! Also your website loads up fast!

What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to
your host? I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

Distributor Utama Obat Penyakit Batu Ginjal Terbesar Batu Ginjal yakni berbentuk benda keras hampir seperti batu yang membentuk di sepanjang saluran kemih dan bisa timbul penyumbatan. obat herbal batu ginjal Obat Herbal Ginjal Bocor amazon Plus Jus Manggis Mampu Mengatasi Sakit Ginjal Bocor Sakit ginjal bocor sering ditemui pada balita yang mengalami kelainan pada fungsi organ ginjal. obat herbal untuk ginjal bocor

Howdy are using Wordpress for your blog platform? I'm new to the blog
world but I'm trying to get started and create my own. Do
you need any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your site?
Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people
could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

Not so many people try to be short. But for anybody who is born in that
position, there happen to be some effortless fashion recommendation and
tips feel free to use every single day to dramatically help afford the
illusion of being much more substantial than you undoubtedly are. my simple fashion  Ace Maxs merupakan obat herbal terbaru yang terbuat dari bahan alami berkualitas tinggi yaitu perpaduan ekstrak kulit manggis dan daun sirsak tanpa ada campuran bahan kimia apapun di dalamnya. Sehingga aman dikonsumsi tubuh baik oleh anak-anak [minimal 5 tahun], remaja, dewasa bahkan lanjut usia serta bebas efek samping negatif apapun. Perlu anda ketahui bahwa obat herbal Ace Maxs sudah mendapat IZIN RESMI BPOM TR. 142 680 331 dan merupakan Produk Halal yang sudah terdaftar di DEPKES RI P-IRT No. 113317401444-17 jadi tidak ada lagi alasan anda untuk meragukan mutu dan kualitasnya. Silahkan pesan via sms atau bbm BARANG SAMPAI BARU BAYAR.

There are lots of talk pertaining to Series LLCs. The savvy are
pondering if they're a brainy idea. The shorter answer is how they
aren't : they did not been subjected to testing, giving these folks
limited applications once they have any in the least.

At initial, I did hardly win what the pact was among use themes. Earlier you clutch the applicant although, you attention that a very is hardly that very heterogeneous from a common thesis. The dissonances are very charming.

Thank you so much for the information, very useful

The post on the high emission coal and the carbon exhausts proved to be a real helpful one. We should ban these outdated techniques to preserve our mother earth. Thank you so much for sharing this useful post.

I finally found great post here.I will get back here.

here is so much in this article that I would never have thought of on my own.

I was incredibly beneficial to understand this identify. I considered thankful you for this only unique look into. I beyond shock savored each moderate bit of it and I be induced with you saved to try out out new content you placement .

I was incredibly beneficial to understand this identify. I considered thankful you for this only unique look into. I beyond shock savored each moderate bit of it and I be induced with you saved to try out out new content you placement.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.