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Strange Goings On At DECC

June 5, 2016

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Patsy Lacey




An intriguing report from the Telegraph (along with mandatory misleading photo):


The Government has been forced to deny it is watering down its pledge to phase out unabated coal power plants by 2025 after the energy minister suggested there could be leeway in the definition of “unabated”.

Unabated coal is widely understood to mean any plants that are not fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which captures the harmful emissions that cause global warming for permanent burial.

But minutes of a coal industry meeting with Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, record that she encouraged the industry to engage in a forthcoming consultation on the 2025 closure plans, including on the question of “what is ‘unabated coal’?”

The speculation that the consultation could see the commitment watered down was further compounded when a Whitehall source was quoted in the Independent saying the consultation would consider whether coal could carry on burning if it was “partially abated”.


Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister 

Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister Credit: Warren Allott


The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) refused to provide a definition of “unabated” on Friday, indicating this was one of the areas that the forthcoming consultation would “seek to clarify”.

It is not clear in what way a plant could be “partially abated”, although it is accepted that even CCS abatement technology is only expected to capture about 90pc of emissions.

A Government source insisted it had no intention of offering a loophole to water down its pledge and suggested the process of defining “unabated” would simply mean setting a standard that could allow for CCS.


CCS technology is as yet untested in the UK and is seen as at best a distant prospect after the Government last year scrapped a £1bn scheme to develop the technology.

Two projects had been competing for that funding: one to retrofit CCS to an existing gas plant at Peterhead in Scotland, and one to build a new coal plant with CCS in Yorkshire.

Experts say retrofitting CCS to coal in the UK could be tricky, not least because of the old age of most of the coal fleet.

A previous Government competition for CCS was cancelled in 2011 as developers planning to retrofit CCS to the Longannet coal plant encountered technical difficulties.


Fiddler's Ferry coal plant 

Ministers pledged to phase out unabated coal by 2025 Credit: Phil Noble/Reuters


Guy Shrubsole, of Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s bizarre that there’s still talk of CCS for coal. Even the most ardent advocates of CCS now accept that it only makes sense for gas and industry.”

The DECC also declined to say how it would treat coal plants that co-fired biomass, such as the unit of Drax which currently burns 5pc-15pc coal with the remainder biomass.

Richard Black, director of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Usually the term ‘abated’ means ‘units fitted with carbon capture and storage equipment’. However, CCS captures at most 90pc of carbon emissions. So you could in theory argue that anything else which reduces emissions by 90pc should be termed ‘abated’ as well.

"For example, some units designed to burn biomass can burn coal as well; so would DECC consider regarding a mix containing, say, 10pc of coal to be sufficiently abated?”

Drax itself acknowledged the coal element of its co-fired unit was unabated. It plans to convert the unit to burn 100pc biomass, subject to state aid clearance, and is also lobbying the Government for subsidies to convert its remaining three coal-fired units.

A spokesman for the DECC said: “Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting and inefficient way of generating electricity.  The government is absolutely committed to phasing out power production from unabated coal by 2025 and it is nonsense to suggest otherwise.

“We made this clear last year and nothing has changed.”


First, a point of fact.

Whether or not a CCS system (that does not exist) can be retro fitted to old coal power stations, the fact remains that most of the UK’s coal power plants have already opted out of the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, meaning that they will have to shut by 2023 anyway.

The only plants still open that have opted in are Drax (which is planning to convert to 100% biomass), Fiddlers Ferry, Rugely (shutting this month) and Ratcliffe. The capacity of Fiddlers Ferry and Ratcliffe is 1961 and 2000 MW respectively.


What is intriguing is that Andrea Leadsom is fervently Brexit, unlike her boss Amber Rudd. Could there be some jockeying for position here. It certainly seems odd that the spokesman for DECC has put her down so forcefully.


Finally, I cannot finish without commenting on this statement:

Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting and inefficient way of generating electricity


Fitting a coal plant with CCS will not reduce the amount of “dirty pollutants” one iota. Indeed, it is generally accepted that CCS fitted plants will need to burn more coal per unit of electricity, thus increasing real (not imaginary) pollution.

As for being inefficient, they obviously have not looked at the CfDs awarded to renewable energy! 

  1. June 5, 2016 1:39 pm

    Seems Emily just copies off stuff PR people write for her.
    So since the article quotes Friends of the Earth and Richard Black, don’t you think the ECIU wrote the original material ?

  2. June 5, 2016 3:48 pm

    The original announcement from DECC, which was part of the propaganda blitz leading up to the Paris shindig, said that the coal phase-out was conditional on other power being available, so they should stick to that and put the squeeze on greenies to support nuclear and gas, and point out that the renewable frenzy has made alternatives to coal so economically unattractive that it probably won’t happen by 2025.

  3. ray permalink
    June 5, 2016 4:27 pm

    “…mandatory misleading photo…”

    You mean the cloud of steam, which most casual readers, ignorant of technology, will assume is a cloud of smoke.

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    June 5, 2016 4:34 pm

    I’d have though unabated woodchips has to be far more of an environmental disaster when you’re projecting catastrophe by 2050, long before any re-absorption will be effective.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      June 6, 2016 12:47 am

      The British end of the company that is responsible for supplying the wood pellets to Drax is run by Chris Huhne.

      Perhaps that explains something.

    • J Martin permalink
      June 6, 2016 8:53 pm

      Very good point. They are chopping down a forest every year so if it takes 30 years for each forest to regrow then after 30 years they still have another 15 years to go before the forests are pulling down as much co2 as has been consumed. So Drax will increase co2 levels for 45 years and only start reducing them thereafter. In fact it’s worse than that because small saplings won’t be taking in as much co2 as larger trees, so Drax co2 break even may be 75 years away.

      Are my estimates and numbers roughly right ?

      • AndyG55 permalink
        June 6, 2016 10:10 pm

        All it takes for Trump to win in the USA, and those forests will most likely become unavailable.

    • J Martin permalink
      June 6, 2016 9:12 pm

      Add in the co2 from processing, shipping etc and drax might be pushed to break even in 85 years, so won’t be helping the government to meet its climate change the target by the end of the century, never mind by 2050.

  5. Billy Liar permalink
    June 5, 2016 9:43 pm

    What does DECC mean by ‘dirty’? I presume most cola plants in the UK are fitted with precipitators so where is the ‘dirt’ coming from?

    They should be banned from using that terminology especially since in the UK, at least, CO2 is still the gas of life, not a ‘pollutant’.

  6. Bloke down the pub permalink
    June 6, 2016 11:20 am

    Richard Black, director of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Usually the term ‘abated’ means ‘units fitted with carbon capture and storage equipment’.

    So that’s ok then, we fit the ccs pipe to the smoke stack to qualify it as abated, but don’t use it. Everyone’s happy then. It’s a bit like when the Chinese built loads of wind farms so they could point to how much installed capacity they had, even though they weren’t connected to the grid.

  7. June 6, 2016 12:36 pm

    >>“Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting and inefficient way of generating electricity. <<
    ..Em wood-pellets/biomass burn less efficiently and DIRTIERr than coal but dodgily claim zero CO2 balance.

    They are dirtier ..especially the wood central Europe burns in home wood stoves.

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