New UK Coal-Fired Power Station Gets Local Approval

The first coal-fired power station to be built in the UK for 30 years has cleared the first planning hurdle. Medway Council in Kent has given its approval to Eon to build the £1 billion Kingsnorth power station, consisting of two supercritical coal fired units.

Eon is a German-owned gas and electricity provider, and is a major player in the UK energy market. The proposed Kingsnorth plant is a direct replacement for an existing coal-fired power-station nearing the end of its life-span. The new plant can be built quickly and should produce less CO2 than the existing plant, around 2 million tonnes less each year, according to Eon. The new plant will also be able to adopt the new technologies of carbon capture and storage, "if such a technology was proved commercially viable" (The Guardian).

Carbon capture is the containment and compression of CO2 emissions from large industrial plants and their storage in suitable natural locations. It has been suggested that old gas and oil-fields could be used to store the CO2. The capture process itself is very energy intensive, making it prohibitively expensive at the moment. There is a pilot project in Norway that has been running since 1996, which has already pumped over a million tonnes of CO2 into empty oil strata.

Paul Golby, Eon chief executive believes the UK is “facing a real energy crunch” as the once rich oil and gas fields in the North Sea are nearing the end of their reserves. Golby went on to say: “We're investing in cleaner coal.” Adrian Smith, Project Manager for the new Kingsnorth power station said: "If built, these units would be the first new coal build [sic] in the UK for over 20 years and could set a new benchmark for cleaner coal-fired generation in the UK." (EON)

This is an argument Greenpeace and other environmental groups have rejected. Ben Stewart from Greenpeace said:

“What we have here quite simply is a proposal to generate electricity by the single most climate-wrecking method in usage anywhere in the world today.” – The Guardian
Although expected to release less CO2 than earlier plants, emission levels would still be more than significant:
Staggeringly, each of the two units Eon proposes would emit more carbon dioxide than 24 of the world’s lowest emitting countries combined.

The units they're proposing don’t even have the capacity for heat capture. In fact, the units are only 45 per cent efficient, meaning that most of the energy is lost as waste heat before it even reaches the transmission lines – pretty scandalous in an age where countries like Denmark are achieving up to 90 per cent efficiency in their power plants.

If Eon is given permission to build these new units at its Kingsnorth power plant, this could be the start of a whole spate of new applications for coal plants.... - Greenpeace

The final say on whether this plant gets the go ahead rests with the Business Secretary, John Hutton. If this plant is approved, it could open the door to other similar projects around the UK. His decision will be a real test for Prime Minister Brown’s environmental rhetoric. For a number of years, Brown has been promoting his government’s environmental policies and their determination to reduce the UK’s green house gas emissions. Here is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that it is anything more than hot air.
... James Hansen, an authority on climate change, is urging the Prime Minister to veto plans to develop a new generation of coal-fired power plants. In a letter to Mr Brown, he warned that approving them would undermine the Bali agreement on global warming and discredit his commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

Mr Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, warned that coal presented the biggest problem in combating climate change because governments seemed determined to use it as a cheap source of energy without considering the long-term consequences to the planet. - Independent

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  • Posted on Jan. 5, 2008. Listed in:

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