The granting of approval for two more gas-fired power stations last week has cast doubt on the seriousness of the Government’s attempt to stop the `dash for gas’ by imposing a stricter planning regime on such projects.
Many in the industry now question just how firm the so-called moratorium on gas-fired plants is. The ban has been imposed in a bid to protect the UK coal mining industry.
The consents, for a 49MW open-cycle plant that Rolls-Royce wants to build at Croydon in south London, and for a 58MW combined heat and power (CHP) plant that Michelin has proposed for its site in Stoke-on Trent, were the third and fourth approvals to be granted in May alone. Nine projects totalling over 1,100MW have now been cleared since the `tougher’ policy was adopted in October last year.
`It certainly raises a big question as to how long the moratorium can last,’ said a source at one of the big generators.
While the Government said from the start that it would look favourably on CHP schemes which have an energy efficiency of 75-80%, the Croydon plant will have a generating efficiency of 42% at best.
However, the Croydon plant was approved because it will demonstrate the commercial application of an advance in gas turbine technology – the use of an industrial derivative of an aeroengine to raise the efficiency of an open-cycle plant from 35% to 42%.
It is the second significant non-CHP scheme to get the green light, following the granting of consent for a 500MW combined-cycle plant at Baglan Bay in South Wales, which will be the linchpin of industrial redevelopment in the area.