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Academic Freedom #5 : More Natural Gas power stations is a Good Thing

Energy policy in the United Kingdom is a constant battle. A number of environmental commentators and campaign groups are up in arms about the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Again.

Somebody with influence should have a quiet word with DECC about their public relations – they seem intent on leading people a merry dance about their true policy intentions – and then blasting everybody with piecemeal pronouncements, without giving the concerned public the full picture.

Personally, I think the strategy of building new Natural Gas-fired power plants is rather good. Yes, I will explain why. But first I will cover some of the complaints.

Here’s Joss Garman of Greenpeace :-

“…In what is the Liberal Democrats’ most craven submission yet to the Chancellor’s bonfire of environmental protections, Davey announced he is stripping away the simple requirement that our power stations need to become more efficient and less polluting. In a major change of course from the path followed by his predecessor Chris Huhne, Davey’s decision will result in a huge increase in our dependence on burning expensive, imported and highly polluting gas. In turn, this will keep bills high, make us even more reliant on imports and, crucially, crash our carbon targets…”

This is from the Friends of the Earth 17th March 2012 Press Release :-

“…The Government’s new ‘dash for gas’, announced by Ministers today (Saturday 17 March 2012), will keep the nation hooked on dirty and expensive fossil fuels and undermine UK targets for tackling climate change, warns Friends of the Earth. This morning’s announcement by Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Chancellor George Osborne sets a pollution cap for new power stations until 2045. However, the level at which the cap has been set would make it impossible for the UK to reach its carbon targets unless the envisaged gas power was fitted with untried carbon capture and storage technology. By contrast, the Government’s independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, has called for the electricity industry to be decarbonised by 2030. Earlier this week research by Friends of the Earth revealed that energy firms, including the Big Six, are planning to build nearly double the number of gas-fired power stations the Government says the UK may need, in a move that energy experts predict will drive up household energy costs. According to Government analysis, rocketing electricity prices have been caused by the soaring price of wholesale gas. Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins said; “This is a catastrophic mistake – a new dash for gas will keep struggling households and businesses hooked on expensive fossil fuels for decades and completely undermine UK climate change targets. This announcement will only benefit fat cat Big Six energy firms who are planning to build new gas-fired power stations and have made huge profits through the nation’s reliance on costly and dirty fossil fuels…”

Here’s James Murray from Business Green :-

“…green groups responded furiously to a government announcement on Saturday that would effectively allow gas-fired power plants to emit carbon at current levels through to 2045. In a joint announcement between the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Treasury, officials revealed the government’s imminent electricity market reforms will include an emissions performance standard (EPS) that means new fossil fuel power plants would have to emit less than 450g/kWh. The new limit would effectively ban the construction of any new coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, but would allow for the continued development of unabated gas-fired power plants. Crucially the 450g/kWh limit would be retained for operating plants through to 2045, meaning any new gas fired power plants could continue to operate without CCS capabilities right through to the 2040s…”

James Murray does hint at something here :-

“…a new national gas strategy to be published in the autumn…”

To what is he referring ?

There are commentators, basing their warnings on significant pieces of evidence, that Natural Gas will start to be affected by the depletion issues faced by crude petroleum – a peak in Natural Gas to follow Peak Oil. It would therefore seem a rather risky strategy to sign off large investment in new Natural Gas energy production facilities – costly infrastructure that cannot be replaced for decades.

In addition, the North Sea oil and gas bonanza is rapidly running down – the United Kingdom has become a net importer of Natural Gas, and we run the risk of becoming politically dependent on Russian energy policy for Siberia, Norway’s demands for European regulatory control and BP and Shell’s plans for the Arctic.

What folly is this, to permit a fleet of new Natural Gas plants with no carbon dioxide emissions control ?

Actually, what DECC are not telling you, yet, because it’s a bit under wraps at present, is that Natural Gas will eventually be phased out in favour of Renewable Gas.

And then new gas power stations will look like the ultimately green decision.

Do look out for the term “biosyngas“, won’t you ?

4 replies on “Academic Freedom #5 : More Natural Gas power stations is a Good Thing”

Fine if it’s biosyngas, and as a transition to/backup for growth in wind/solar/tidal. But, given the Coalition’s priorities, I fear it will be fracking/shale gas, as a permanent ‘solution’. I hope I’m wrong.

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