Coal-fired power stations trialling ‘carbon capture’ technology could be exempt from regulations
A new generation of coal-fired power stations will be built without permanent curbs on emissions, say green groups, who warn that a “whopping loophole” risks a new age of pollution.
Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, claimed last week that his reforms “will ensure we can keep the lights on, bills down and the air clean”. His department boasted that the Draft Energy Bill will “provide a regulatory backstop to prevent construction of new coal plants which emit more than 450g/kWh”.
But buried in the fine print was confirmation that new coal-fired power stations will in fact not be subject to the coalition’s carbon cap, known as the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS), provided they trial a carbon capture and storage (CCS) system.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change this weekend admitted that if the largely untested and expensive CCS technology fails, the power station will go on polluting. “We will consider the circumstances at the time,” a spokesman said.
Environmentalists seized on the revelation, claiming ministers had caved into the coal industry and allowed it to avoid limits on emissions that contribute to climate change. There are 14 coal-fired power stations currently in the UK. In November, North Ayrshire Council rejected plans for a new plant at Hunterston.
Joss Garman, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace, said ending the era of dirty coal had been a flagship pledge from both parties in the coalition. “But now the Lib Dem Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, seems to have slipped the coal industry a whopping loophole that could mean some of the most polluting power stations known to man could be built in the UK and exempted from pollution controls.
“David Cameron and Nick Clegg must step in and put right this mess of a policy to make sure we don’t see the spectre of highly polluting coal plants like Kingsnorth return.”