When 100% Becomes 25%

I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that zero should mean zero. Zero tolerance on smoking in restaurants shouldn’t allow one corner of La Dolce Vita, Peckham to have a smoking table.

No, there isn’t an Italian dining establishment called “La Dolce Vita” in Peckham. I made that bit up. But I’m not making this bit up – the Zero Carbon Homes standard will only mandate a 25% reduction from ordinary energy efficiency standards :-

http://www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk/article.php?category_id=1&article_id=414

That means that new residential buildings will still emit 75% of the amount permitted today. Seventy-five is not even close to zero, in my book. Even I learned that much at school. Seems like a misnomer to call them “Zero Carbon Homes”.

This reminds me of the “Clean” Coal proposal for a new Kingsnorth power plant : they will only be obliged to reduce 25% of the emissions using Carbon Capture and Storage :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/oct/08/kingsnorth-climate-change-protests

“In April 2009 the UK government announced that no new coal fired power stations would be built unless they bury at least 25% of emissions using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. From 2025 that requirement goes up to 100%. Although elements of CCS are up and running and there are a handful of small-scale demonstration projects, the technology is a long way from commercial reality and some environmentalists fear that the “clean coal” slogan is an excuse for business as usual.”

The trouble with this approach is the turnover time of the stock. Meaning, once you build a house, it stays up for decades. So you are committing that building to permanently higher emissions than could have been designed out at the beginning.

I’m aware that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is expensive, so I can understand why coal power station builders, poor lambs, won a consession from the Government at the time to limit capture to only 25% of the emissions. But you can bet your bottom eurodollar that if Kingsnorth gets built, the power station owners will bleat their way out of adding extra CCS capacity. Then we will be stuck with highly polluting Energy supply for decades to come.

Energy Industry leaders are already calling for public finance for CCS in the form of a Carbon Tax, in order to “stimulate” the take-up of technologies to reduce emissions from burning Fossil Fuels :-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/24/shell-chief-carbon-tax

That sounds like a bailout to me : state handouts to support a dying industry. Let’s get to the end point of this sorry mess and make the public declaration now : the end of Coal.

The supply of Fossil Fuels is starting to deplete, including Coal. This means that Coal fuel prices are going to face “scarcity” value pricing ramp-ups. Cost Stressor Number 1.

Carbon Capture and Storage uses more Coal fuel than ordinary emitting plants. If all existing coal-fired power stations and all new ones are fitted with CCS, the global Coal fuel bill could rise by 25% – 40% (estimate). That means that even after you’ve fitted CCS equipment to your new or existing plant, you will face much higher power generation costs for the rest of the life of the plant. Cost Stressor Number 2.

This all makes Coal completely uncompetitive with Wind Power, where the fuel is forever free.

We shouldn’t lock ourselve into costly Coal and leaky buildings. We should set a Zero Carbon standard that means what it says : Zero Carbon, from the outset.

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