New UK coal plants “must bury CO2”

The British government has announced that no new coal-fired power stations will be built unless they capture and bury at least 25% of greenhouse gases immediately and 100% by 2025, the Guardian reported. Climate change secretary Ed Miliband’s announcement was seen as a rewrite of government energy policy and a victory for green pressure groups.

The government will direct construction of four energy “clusters”, generating a total of 2.5 gigawatts of electricity, on Britain’s east coast. Each cluster will have at least one major new coal-fired power station able to collect carbon emissions and transport them out to sea, where they will be buried in redundant oil or gas fields.

The new power stations, the first to be built in more than 30 years, are not expected to come onstream until 2015. They will be sited in the Thames Gateway east of London, on the northern rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, with a possible fifth on Merseyside, in north-west England. The government envisages oil and coal companies linking to reduce emissions from coal-powered electricity generation by up to 60% by 2025.

Demanding carbon capture and storage (CCS) on all new coal plants is expected to cost the equivalent of US$1.46 billion for each plant. The government and energy companies are in talks over how these will be funded but the money is expected to come from a levy on all fossil-fuel electricity generation in Britain. Other possible funding alternatives include paying energy companies according to how much carbon they store underground.

Miliband said Britain planned to lead the world in clean-coal technology. This is expected to become a global industry in the next 50 years as countries commit to reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming. Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels but provides at least one-third of the world’s electricity.

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