Clean coal is future for energy supplies

Greenhouse gas emissions from new power stations will be collected and permanently stored deep underground

A A A

Any new coal-fired power stations built in Britain will have to be fitted with cutting-edge technology to capture their carbon emissions, the Government announced yesterday in a revolution in energy policy.

The announcement, by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, outlined the first practical programme in the world to deploy carbon capture and storage, or CCS – the technological "fix" on which the world's chances of fighting climate change may come to depend.

CCS, which takes power stations' carbon dioxide waste gas, liquefies it and stores it permanently deep underground, instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere where it helps drive global warming, would henceforth be a requisite for any new British coal-fired power plant, Mr Miliband said.

As the technology is in its infancy and still unproven, new generating stations would have to be built from scratch with demonstration plants attempting to capture emissions from about 300 megawatts of capacity, or about a quarter of a typical big plant's output. But after 2020, as long as the technology had been proven, CCS would have to be retro-fitted to all new stations to cover the whole of their emissions, Mr Miliband said.

It is likely that four new coal-fired plants, accompanied by CCS facilities, will be built in Britain, as the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, announced in his Budget on Wednesday that government funding for "up to four" CCS demonstration plants would be made available. Their enormous cost (probably well over £1bn each) will be met by a levy on electricity prices, which by 2020 will add about 2 per cent to the average household electricity bill.

The new power stations are likely to be built on east coast estuaries such as the Thames, the Humber, the Tees and the Firth of Forth, where access is easiest to the future permanent storage areas for their CO2 – depleted oil and gas fields deep under the bed of the North Sea. Norwegian operations have already shown that waste gases can be pumped down into such geological formations and safely stored.

Yesterday's announcement was generally given a cautious welcome by environmentalists.

"At last Ed Miliband is demonstrating welcome signs of climate leadership in the face of resistance from Whitehall officials and cabinet colleagues," said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace. "He is the first minister in 12 years to throw down the gauntlet to the energy companies and demand they start taking climate change seriously."

However, Mr Sauven warned that for every tonne of carbon captured and buried from new coal plants before the 2020s, the Government was allowing three tonnes to be released into the atmosphere.

At a stroke, the new policy takes much of the heat out of what for two years has been the thorniest environmental problem in British politics: whether or not to let a new generation of coal-fired power stations go ahead, led by the massive plant proposed by the German-owned electricity giant E.ON for Kingsnorth in Kent.

Green campaigners feared that the Government was at one stage close to sanctioning Kingsnorth (and thus other coal-fired plants which would follow) without regard to abating the huge volumes of CO2 which would consequently be emitted. The site of the plant became the focus of widespread environmental protests.

But allowing Kingsnorth to go ahead with its emissions "unabated" is now off the agenda, and the plant will only be built if E.ON wins the design competition for the first CCS demonstration plant, in which it is involved with two other utilities – which will not be for at least 18 months.

"The era of new unabated coal has come to an end," Mr Miliband said yesterday, claiming that the Government's plan was "the most environmentally ambitious of any country in the world, and puts us in a world leadership position on CCS and coal".

He said: "There is no alternative to CCS if we are serious about fighting climate change and retaining a diverse mix of energy sources for our economy."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star