The government has given the go ahead for a new generation of coal fired power stations with the caveat that carbon capture and storage technology must be installed by 2025.
Executive director of environmental activism organisation, Greenpeace, John Sauven commented yesterday on Ed Miliband’s proposed action to tackle the issue of polluting coal fired power stations, stating:
“Finally a cabinet minister has faced up to the massive threat coal poses to the climate, but we’re not there yet. Very significant questions remain unanswered, with environmentalists concerned that emissions from coal could still be undermining Britain’s climate efforts for years to come.”
Concerns have been raised at the fact that although the technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been developed, it has not been used on a commercial scale, and is therefore not proven to be a viable option to use in the fight against climate change. CCS works by collecting the carbon emitted in the process of generating power from burning coal. This is then pumped back underground into the undersea havens that once contained natural gas.
There is much uncertainty surrounding the process of CCS, not just in terms of whether the technology will be able to be applied to help with tackling climate change, but also in terms of cost, time taken for the technology to be installed and utilised, and also the fact that CCS is a hugely energy intensive process in itself. All these factors contribute to one overarching fact. CCS may not work.
In addition to this, the Environment Agency have not made it clear whether existing plants that are built before demonstration plants provide the answers to the viability of CCS will be allowed to continue to operate without the technology. Greenpeace’s John Sauven went on to say,
“Until there is a cast iron guarantee that new coal plants won’t be allowed to pump out massive amounts of CO2 from day one, our campaign continues.”
Nick Horler, chief executive of energy company Scottish Power believes that there should be a focus on revamping Britain’s existing power stations rather than simply looking to build new, commenting that,
“If we can’t do anything about retro-fitting them with carbon capture, then whatever we do with new build is largely irrelevant.”