Future of UK coal and coal power industry “hangs in the balance”
Yesterday, MPs expressed support for the key messages in the TUC’s report, a Roadmap for Coal, which argues that the future of the UK’s coal and power industry and its 10,000 direct employees hangs in the balance. The co-chairs of the APPG for clean coal, Brian Binley MP and Ian Lavery MP, undertook to raise plant closures and the need to safeguard investment in clean coal technology with Ministers. A report in The Times yesterday reported the imminent closure of five older generation power station, which, as Prospect commented, could push up energy prices further.
The Roadmap for Coal argues that a failure to invest now in carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not only placing at risk, but is also jeopardising the chances of the UK becoming a world leader in the emerging low-carbon technology.
This message was delivered to MPs by the Clean Coal Task Group (CCTG), of which the TUC and seven of its affiliated unions are members. The report says that without a substantial investment in carbon capture technology and a major reform of the UK’s electricity market, the UK will become heavily dependent on gas-fired power, and will see its competitor nations bounding ahead in the race to develop low-cost, effective CCS technology.
So that the UK can be on course to meet its target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Committee for Climate Change recently advised ministers that our electricity sector will need to be substantially decarbonised by 2030 so that it can be completely carbon-free 20 years after that.
The UK currently mines more than 18 million tonnes of coal a year, allowing the country’s 19 coal-fired power stations to generate over a quarter (28%) of our electricity. But these power stations also make a significant contribution to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report.
Furthermore the report says that jobs in coal-mining and power generation are hanging in the balance because around five coal power stations are already set to close in the next four years to comply with EU emissions standards.
In addition, the Roadmap for Coal warns that unless ministers get their energy policy right there is a danger that reforms to the electricity market will simply see the construction of a number of new gas power stations to the detriment of coal. Coal’s future is bound up with the successful development of CCS technology in the UK, but the government has still to make an announcement on the first of the UK’s four carbon capture projects, says the report.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
‘If coal mining and coal power, and the thousands of people directly employed in these industries are to have a future in the UK’s low-carbon economy, then we need to invest in carbon capture and storage technology, and quickly.
‘Ministers say that the UK will have its first carbon capture plant operating in five years time, with another three in place by 2018, but this isn’t soon enough. Our coal power industries are too important, as is the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, for this not to be the government’s number one energy priority right now.’
Dr Mike Farley, Director of Technology Policy Liaison at Doosan Power Systems and Chair of the CCTG said:
‘The future of the UK coal and coal power industry and its 10,000 direct employees hangs in the balance. Actions taken now to invest in carbon capture technology and reform our electricity market can secure this core industry in a low carbon economy for the long term. Delays will mean losing a once-only opportunity for global leadership in the vital CCS industry.’
Roadmap for Coal says that in order to secure the jobs, skills and investment in UK coalmining and its associated power stations for the long term, the government must:
- quickly conclude the negotiations over the publicly-funded contract for the UK’s first CCS demonstration project, likely to be based in Scotland
- speed up the process to open the competition for the next three CCS projects, due to come onstream by 2018
- ensure that the infrastructure necessary to make carbon capture a reality for clean power stations is synchronised with local heavy industries – such as steelworks, cement and chemical plants – so they can also access carbon capture and storage networks in our industrial regions.