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Keeping the lights on

coal_power_plant_datteln_2_crop1.png Today, Britain has roughly 32 GW of ancient, polluting, inefficient coal plants that were built by the CEGB, with an average age of about 40 years.

About 12 GW of these did not fit flue gas de-sulphurization (FGD) by 2008. They are therefore not compliant with the requirement of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD). Each (usually) 500 MW unit in this group has only 20,000 hours of “legal” operational life between 1st January 2008 and 31st December 2015, before closure becomes mandatory.

Anecdotal evidence points towards the likelihood that they are “burning up” these hours rapidly and most are likely to close down well before 2015.

By 1st January, 2016, the approximately 20 GW of plant that did fit FGD must also become compliant with the stricter air pollution requirements of the Industrial Emissions (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) EU Directive (IED), particularly as regards NOx emissions. The best available control technology (BACT) for NOx control requires that sulphur-compliant plant must also retrofit selective catalytic reactors (SCR) to reduce these emissions. However, by this date, the UK is also bound by its own “binding legislation” to be reducing CO2 (35% by 2020).

Few owners of the remaining 40-year old power stations will want to risk installing SCR at £100 Million for a typical 500 MW power block, knowing that these plants must close because of "legally binding" CO2 emissions. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) expects that, also for reasons of NOx emissions, even quite new gas-fired units must also close. It is well known in the industry that by 2023, Sizewell B will be the only nuclear power plant left in operation in England, compared to today’s roughly 10 GW of nuclear plants. Even with an impressive importing infrastructure, we cannot possibly rely on enough imported gas to be available to meet the loss of so much coal and nuclear power.

We certainly cannot rely on wind power to give much help, as was evidenced by the “low wind” periods that occurred when very cold weather hit Britain during the winter of 2009 – 2010. We are now faced with a stark choice – either we “disobey” EU environmental laws or stop generating electricity and start turning out the lights. Our 300 years of energy self-sufficiency from wood, coal, nuclear and gas has ended. Growing imports from fast depleting global resources will cost us dear in the future as these are sold to the highest bidder. Shortfalls threaten our energy security, national prosperity and our social infrastructure; the core responsibilities of all Governments.

Our Government is operating in its own energy policy universe; one which is completely divorced from reality. Apparently worthy subjects like global warming, clearly unachievable targets for offshore wind power and fantasy carbon capture projects for new coal burning power stations are just some of irrelevant distractions being promoted at the cost of what the British people really need – the certainty that this government (and the next) will safeguard and improve our existing electrical generating capacity.

We at DimWatt are launching this campaign in the hope that, somehow, the UK Government will see the folly of its ways and take some very uncomfortable actions that may also be humiliating, now. Are we scare mongering? No. On the evidence before us (documented in other parts of this website) we have much to be scared about. What is at stake is the real risk of socio economic disintegration during the next decade if our country persists in its current unachievable (non) energy objectives, rather than the straightforward course we propose. We require our leaders to obtain ‘permission’ from our EU partners that will allow Britain to keep all its old coal and nuclear plants running, in the cause of energy security, while we re-assess our energy situation and undertake to re-configure and renew our energy infrastructure with capital equipment that is fit to compete in the energy-scarce conditions we expect during the next 50 years.