Renewed disinterest

It has emerged that the UK government no longer plans to rely on renewable energy sources to ensure that it meets its target of a 60 per cent reduction in CO2
emissions by 2050.

It has emerged that the UK government no longer plans to rely on renewable energy sources to ensure that it meets its target of a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Despite the government’s much-heralded plans to generate 20 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 as part of its drive to reduce carbon emissions, the chair of its advanced power generation forum, Nick Otter, said last week that enhanced power plant efficiency was the solution.

Speaking at a DTI conference, Otter, who is also director of technology and external relations at Alstom Power, said that, in contributing to the UK’s carbon target, efficiency improvements in existing and future power plants would provide a 30 per cent reduction. CO2 sequestration could create the other 30 per cent, he said.

‘It’s going to be tough to hit the 60 per cent target. We need to have efficiency improvements to get us halfway there. Then we need to address step-change technologies such as CO2 capture and storage.’

Though public perception of UK energy policy is that renewable energy sources, in combination with the rise of the hydrogen economy, will end greenhouse gas emissions in the long term, conference speakers painted a different picture. None of the delegates, including US and UK industry consultants to government and the DTI’s director of energy strategy, proposed that either a hydrogen economy or nuclear power would be the key to reduced or zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Tony Oliver, managing director of power-generation consultancy K-S Tech, suggested efficiency improvements would achieve much of the required emissions reduction, while CO2 capture and storage would be needed only if nuclear power were to be phased out. If nuclear is not phased out the UK will probably not need CO2 sequestration, he said.

Meanwhile, the UK, EU and US are all looking with interest at the future of coal, which is in plentiful supply around the world and can generate useful gas.

Stuart Dalton of the Electric Power Research Institute, a US energy think-tank, said the US is supporting research programmes into the ‘clean’ burning of coal. Coal gasification could provide a source of gas for more efficient gas power plants. But this is viewed as a more expensive option than natural gas.

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