UK bans new coal-fired power plants without carbon capture

The government has imposed a ban on the building of new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage technology. A consultation on an “emissions performance standard”, which would penalise power plants that operate below a certain level of efficiency, will be launched in November.

The energy minister Charles Hendry has said “it was already clear” that coal fired stations without CCS technology would not be accepted.
Several companies, including EON and RWE have been planning new coal-fired power stations but have proceeded slowly in the uncertain regulatory outlook.

The first plants with CCS technology are likely to be delayed, as the government said yesterday it had not set a date for the initial winner of a competition it had launched to prove the technology to receive public funding. A further consultation, due to finish by the end of 2011, will then take place on the running of a second competition to provide funding for a further three plants.

The postponement will disappoint CCS companies, as talks on governments support for such projects have been running for four years. After a consultation with industry, the government formally announced the current CCS completion in 2007.

Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, said that he did not believe there would be an “energy gap” between supply and demand as old power plants were taken out of service. “The lights are not going out on my watch,” he said.

The ministers were speaking at the presentation of the first energy statement at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, setting out the state of the UK’s energy market and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of the statement, the government changed the rules on burning biomass to give a boost to the emerging industry. MGT Power said that it would resume its plans to build biomass power plants in Teesside and Tyneside.

The statement also assured the nuclear industry on some of the obstacles to investment. Mr Huhne predicted: “We will see the first new nuclear power station on track for 2018”. Mr Huhne said that the push for renewable energy, CCS and other low-carbon technologies would not necessarily add to consumers’ energy bills. If the oil price rose from its current spot price of about $80 to more than $100, then consumers would save money as a result of the government’s policies, he added.

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