Thursday, September 30, 2010

alex salmond's renewable coal

Last week Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, announced that Scotland's target of generating 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 has been upped to 80%.

This week he went one better, suggesting it could be 100% by 2025.

This is interesting, given the plans for a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston, already dubbed by activists the 'new Kingsnorth'. The new power station would run for many decades, burning coal far beyond 2025. It's not only opposed by Scotland's kickass anti-coal activists, but also such rabid revolutionaries as the RSPBChristian Aid, WWF, the World Development Movement and the Church of Scotland.


Salmond's government aims to fast track the Hunterston proposal by using a new streamlined planning process, bypassing the often lengthy and expensive public-consultation rules that normally apply.

In 2007 Salmond said

Coal is king ... If you can use clean-coal technology, coal has a dynamic future. It means coal, far from being environmentally unacceptable, is becoming environmentally attractive.

The Scottish government will only oblige Hunterston to have 300 megawatts (MW) of production with carbon capture and storage. The station is planned to be 1600MW, in other words over 80% without carbon capture. This makes it more carbon intensive than any other way of generating electricity, except for unabated coal.

The Scottish government has also granted the massive Longannet coal power station an life extension so it can keep burning well past its 2015 sell-by date.

Anyone can set targets, especially ones that are mere suggestions for a time fifteen years hence. Just as every warmongering aggressor talks about peace and self-defence, so every fossil burner talks about the importance of aiming for sustainability.


Dunc said...

Yeah, it's a bit bloody depressing, isn't it? Especially when you realise that the SNP are about as good as it gets for a mainstream party...

There may be some weaselling going on with the targets here... The question is whether they're talking the electricity generated in Scotland or the generation of the electricity used in Scotland - as we export something like 20% of our total generation to England. So it would be theoretically possible to claim that 100% of the electricity used in Scotland was generated by renewables, whilst still having a substantial non-renewable component in the generating mix. And let's not even think about whether nuclear counts as "renewable or not... (Fun fact - last time I checked, the largest single component in the generating mix for Scottish Hydro Electric was - yup, you guessed it - nuclear. The clue's in the name, isn't it?)

I get the feeling that "renewable" is going the way of "sustainable"... It's becoming a non-word (maybe even an anti-word?), a meaningless invocation of some kind of aspiration towards better things, rather than actually meaning, you know, renewable.

merrick said...


In 2005 the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, told the Financial Times that nuclear power was renewable.

Anything that cannot infinitely replenish is not renewable. Uranium is a rare and finite mineral. Debate over. At least, to anyone interested in facts.

That weaselling with numbers could actually hold the key - Scotland's wind and marine potential is gargantuan, especially compared to its demand.

However, it feels to me more like 'ooh loook, we could be lovely' stuff like the oil companies put out when they make a few solar panels or hydrogen car.