Now this is what I pay my Greenpeace membership fees for, not wittering on about low energy light bulbs. In the early hours of Monday morning, a group of 50 Greenpeace activists occupied the Kingsnorth power station on the Medway estuary in Kent. One group immobilised the conveyor belts carrying coal into the plant then chained themselves to the machinery. A second group climbed a 200 metre ladder up the chimney, with supplies to hold it for several days and force it off the National Grid.
According to Greenpeace, “Coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels; it just isn’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. No new coal fired power station has been built in the UK in over 30 years but now Gordon Brown may be giving the green light to a new coal rush.
“In December last year, E.ON applied to build a new coal plant that would emit as much carbon dioxide as the world’s 24 lowest emitting countries combined. Worse, it could keep pumping out emissions for another 50 years. And it will only be 45 per cent efficient, in an age when power stations can reach 95 per cent efficiency. E.ON, the German group behind the plan for the new coal plant, is Britain’s single biggest greenhouse gas polluter.
“Brown’s repeatedly been asked to veto the plans; he’s refused. In fact, his government has convened a coal forum to bring forward ways of strengthening the industry, and working to ensure that the UK has the right framework to secure the long-term future of coal-fired generation.”
It’s worth noting that E.ON is planning to implement one of the first large scale community heating schemes in the UK, with the potential for tens of thousands of Kent homes to be heated by excess steam from its proposed cleaner coal development at Kingsnorth. E.ON press release
It’s also interesting that Greenpeace aren’t against coal as such, but the inefficiencies of coal-powered generation. They don’t mean the conventional idea of inefficiency, where energy is ‘lost’ along the generation chain, but something called ‘carbon intensity’, the amount of usable energy associated with a certain level of CO2 emissions.
“The point is really, the overall efficiency of the plant: just how much energy (heat+electricity) do you get out of it for the CO2 emissions. There’s a strong case for setting a bar, a minimum carbon intensity standard, below which any new fossil fuel plant would be ruled out. A sensible place to put this might be at the same level as a good quality gas-fuelled CHP plant; any plant with more CO2 emissions per unit of useful energy produced than this would be ruled out. A CHP plant running purely on coal certainly wouldn’t meet this standard. And one the size of Kingsnorth and only supplying 100,000 homes would be way, way off. But a state of the art CHP plant, like those in Denmark, running on a mixture of fuels that included some coal along with a significant amount of sustainable biofuels might well meet the standard.
“So, basically: We support super-efficient, multi-fuel CHP as the most efficient, flexible form of generating energy with the most scope for getting even cleaner in the future (by increasing the amount of cleaner fuels it uses as they become available). We certainly wouldn’t support a CHP plant run purely on coal as the emissions would still be much too high. But, depending on the overall efficiency, we might accept that coal could be used as a part of the mix going into a multi-fuel CHP plant.”
While Greenpeace demonstrates a disappointingly high level of pragmatism and willingness to compromise, E.ON maintain that despite the protestors’ efforts the plant is still operational. BBC News
For updates and opinions , go to Bex’s Greenpeace blog.