Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Another Coal Power Station

Ayrshire Power has confirmed its intention to build a £3 billion coal-fired power plant in Hunterston. This proposal has been in the pipeline for over 2 years. Peel Energy logged in 2008 an environmental impact assessment for its proposed state of the art multi-fuelled power plant. The plant would be fuelled by coal and up to 14% biomass, such as wood making it very efficient. Their report states that “the proposed power station would utilise carbon capture and storage technology when viable, enabling it to provide secure, low carbon energy and capture up to 90% of the CO2 produced by the plant. This Carbon Capture Ready (CCR) 1,600 MW power station would to help meet the energy needs of up to 2 million homes throughout the UK”. So far so good. However, there is never a free lunch.

According to a document produced in 2005 by the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in order to store CO2 it first has to be captured, transported and then stored for many hundreds of years. Storage alternatives mentioned include the ocean; injection into geological structures or transform the CO2 into a solid carbon precipitate. It is very logical to ask how much energy will be spent capturing, transporting, storing or transforming the CO2?

The new application rests on the assumption that the new power station would use carbon capture and storage to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but this technology is still in its infancy and has never been proven at the scale required to work effectively in a power station of this size. There are grave reservations from environmentalists on the viability of this technology but the concerns are not only from organizations such as Greenpeace, but also from local people. The congregation at Fairlie Parish Church lives close to the site of the proposed power station and have been worried about its implications for some time. The Church of Scotland backs the concerns of this local congregation.

This proposal represents the first real challenge for the Scottish Government’s much applauded Climate Change Act which was agreed by the Scottish Parliament in 2009. The Church of Scotland, as part of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, strongly supported the Climate Change Bill in its passage through the Scottish Parliament.

Unless carbon capture can be made to work effectively and quickly the new power station would seriously compromise the targets included in the Scottish Climate Change Act and put the credibility of Scotland’s world leading position would be put in doubt. For this reason I feel great concern about the wisdom of this application and call upon the Scottish Government to do nothing that places its climate change targets at risk.

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