A loophole in the UK Government’s new energy bill will allow the coal-fired power station proposed for Hunterston in North Ayrshire to belch out hundreds of millions of tonnes of climate pollution and wreck Scotland’s targets to cut emissions.
The hitherto unnoticed get-out clause was slipped in by Westminster after lobbying behind the scenes by the coal industry, and contradicts promises made by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats.
It has been condemned as “utterly ridiculous” and “crazy” by leading environmental groups. Control over energy is not devolved to the Scottish Parliament or Government.
The loophole exempts coal stations that adopt government-approved technologies to trap carbon emissions from tough new limits on pollution. But the technologies – known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) – may only cover a proportion of the pollution, and may not work.
The £3 billion coal station planned for Hunterston by Ayrshire Power, set up by the property company, Peel Holdings, is intending to trap less than a fifth of its emissions with CCS technology. The plan, due to face a public inquiry later this year, has prompted over 20,000 objections, making it one of Scotland’s most disputed planning applications.
The loophole was inserted in the UK energy bill’s small print to appease coal companies anxious about their future. An internal industry memo in December to the UK Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, set out what they wanted in the bill.