Richard North, 27/05/2012  

coal train.jpg

Removal of nuclear power from the energy mix has always been top of the green agenda. Thus, the recent news that talks were in process to extend the life of the nuclear estate represent, at the very least, a setback for their cause.

Green campaigners are also spitting with rage at what they see as subsidies for nuclear power in the proposed energy bill, the government's support for the industry amounting to another kick in the teeth for the greens.

Now, another Holy Grail seems to be in the process of being ditched overboard - the much-touted carbon capture and storage (CCS), otherwise known as the back-door plan to ban coal-fired electricity generation.

Activists are complaining that energy secretary Ed Davey's energy bill has left a "whopping loophole" in the CCS plan, which will permit coal-fired power stations to be built without permanent curbs on emissions, as long as they provide a trial CCS system.

Within the bill, there is an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) for new plants, known as the "carbon cap", but the Department of Energy and Climate Change has now admitted that it won't apply to new coal-fired power stations fitted for CCS. Thus, if the largely untested and expensive CCS technology is tried and fails, the power stations can continue operating.

Joss Garman, a senior campaigner for the anti-nuclear Greenpeace, is not a happy bunny. Ending the era of "dirty coal" had been a "flagship pledge" from both parties in the coalition, he claims, and his now demanding that Cameron and Clegg step in and "put right this mess of a policy".

Mess it is, and the idea that electricity suppliers should have to pay a sort of Dangeld in the form of buying up a dummy plant to appease the Great God Gaia would be thought utterly bizarre in saner times.

But as long as DECC can keep repeating the mantras, that it is "confident CCS will work" and "in the long run could remove a significant amount of the UK's CO2 emissions created by energy generation", the dummies provide a sufficient alibi for the death trains to keep rolling and the lights (some of them) switched on.

Reality is at last intruding into energy policy, even if the price is unnecessarily high.


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