Such is the consequence of a free market energy policy. Eon and RWE’s decisions to cancel their UK nuclear programmes may not have pulled the plug entirely on plans for new nuclear plant, but they have seriously undermined them.
It follows hard on the heels of Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear plant, after the near melt-down at Fukushima, Japan. The UK energy companies’ reluctance to build new coal plant, or to embark on refurbishing many existing plant to higher environmental standards, has struck another body blow at Britain’s energy policy – such as it is. Renewables have not made really significant headway, just as energy conservation remains the Cinderella of the Coalition government’s policy approach. All that remains is a second dash for gas and possible shortages of capacity in just a few years’ time.
The contrast with energy policy developments in China could not be greater, especially with the new sustainable development approach embodied in China’s 12th Five Year Plan.
It is no wonder that Greenpeace has given critical praise to China’s efforts. As the World Bank noted in its recent report on the future of China’s economy, China already has the largest capacity for renewable energy, has doubled its wind generation every year since 2005, is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, is a world leader in small hydro power generators and has the world’s cleanest coal fired power plant, using supercritical boiler technology, doubling the thermal efficiency of older type plant. It also has one of the few expanding nuclear programmes.
I have just come back from Beilun, the economic development zone of Ningbo, China’s second biggest port on the east coast suth of Shanghai. It has a very impressive record and there is a power station complex that would put Drax in Yorkshire’s ‘power valley’ to shame. It uses the full complement of advanced clean coal technology, with supercritical boilers and the latest ultra-supercritical boilers as well as desulphurisation. Ultra-supercritical boilers cut CO2 emissions by at least 25% compared with a Drax type station.
China now has more than 235 supercritical and ultra-supercritical power station boiler plant in operation, according to a recent study by the Asian Development Bank. However, under the new sustainable development approach new coal plant have to be agreed by the central government, as the country starts to make serious moves towards a lower carbon economy. That will be the challenge of the century, but we should not mistake the determination of policy makers in China to get there.