Select Committee on Environmental Audit Memoranda


Memorandum from the Confederation of UK Coal Producers


  The Confederation of UK Coal Producers (COALPRO) is the trade body that represents some 90 per cent of coal producers in the UK. Coal Mining and related activities directly employ over 40,000 people in the UK and have a turnover of in excess of £2,000 million. The industry spends over £1,000 million in wages and salaries and about £250 million is paid in tax, rates and other community benefits.

  COALPRO fully supports the UK Government's energy policy to "secure diverse and sustainable supplies of energy at competitive prices" and believes that renewables together with clean coal technology can help deliver this goal.


  In 1999 renewables accounted for less than 3 per cent of UK electricity generation. The Government's target is to have 10 per cent of the UK's electricity generated from renewable sources by 2010. They have outlined a programme to achieve this goal via the Renewables Obligation, which imposes a duty on electricity suppliers to sell specified quantities of renewable electricity otherwise face financial penalties.

  The 10 per cent renewables target has now been factored into the DTI's forward energy projections and the Government's Climate Change Programme. Looking at historic data on renewables development, COALPRO's concern is that these targets will not be met. As at September 2000, 3.64GW of plant had been contracted under the UK Non Fossil Obligation (NFFO) rounds but only 0.86GW has been commissioned, less than 25 per cent of the total. A breakdown of schemes within England and Wales is shown below:


Contracted Capacity
Commissioned Capacity
Completion Rate 0%
NFFO 1 (1990)
NFFO 2 (1991)
NFFO 3 (1995)
NFFO 4 (1996)
NFFO 5 (1998)

  The low completion rate can be attributed to, in the main, problems in obtaining permissions through the local planning system. The same planning difficulties exist with out Members' applications for new opencast sites. Whilst it is desirable to see an increase in renewables capacity, COALPRO would not wish to see a distortion within the planning system which favoured one energy source at the expense of others.


  Electricity generated from renewable sources is more expensive than from conventional sources. Since 1990 around £700 million has been spent on supporting renewables, raised via the Fossil Fuel Levy on consumer bills.

  The Government in their Renewables Obligation propose to allow electricity suppliers to charge consumers an additional 3 p/k Wh over and above the market price. This will set the price for renewable electricity at around 5.3 p/k Wh and the Government estimate it will cost consumers around £600 million per annum by 2010. Even at this high price many developers of Biomass and photovoltaics claim the support price is too low. In comparison electricity generated by clean coal technology, which could deliver 25 per cent reduction on CO2 emissions compared to existing coal stations, would cost around 3-3.5 p/k Wh.

  COALPRO therefore calls for the Government to introduce a "clean energy" obligation which could include clean coal based on the same principles of the Renewables Obligation. We have already expressed our concerns that the 10 per cent UK renewables target by 2010 will not be met. Additional support for "clean energy" would give the Government confidence that its Climate Change Programme would be met, whilst preserving fuel security and diversity within the UK.


  COALPRO would also call for the widening of the definition of a "renewable" to include mine gas from abandoned and working collieries. Historically it has always appeared anomalous to COALPRO that generation from landfill gas was included with the NFFO support mechanism, yet generation using mine gas from abandoned and working collieries was not included. Methane is particularly damaging to the environment having a global warming effect 21 times that of carbon dioxide on a mass basis. The granting of "green status" to mine gas projects would further encourage schemes which could make a significant contribution to the UK's environmental targets.


  The coal industry could reduce the volume of waste going to land and even recover waste previously laid down in lagoons and tips by utilising solid and wastes as poor quality fuel. The economics of using these wastes for power generation are not favourable, but would become so if there was an incentive under the Renewables Obligation. COALPRO calls for such environmentally desirable developments to be supported.


  The Renewables Obligation preliminary consultation document states that energy from waste (EfW) is already viable and therefore should be excluded from the Obligation. COALPRO believes that energy from waste technologies have an important role in helping to meet the Government's target of generating 10 per cent of electricity. Exclusion from the Obligation would undermine the Government's waste strategy and compromise the electricity suppliers' ability to deliver the 10 per cent target.

  We recognise the Government's desire to distance itself from any politically undesirable association with large scale EfW using mass burn technology. However, we would suggest that the Government considers the need to support more advanced technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis, that are far from commercial. These technologies offer state of the art environment performance and could gain economies of scale if combined with coal in large gasification units.


  Based upon past performance it is unlikely that the Government's 10 per cent renewable target will be achieved by 2010. It is therefore, important that investment is made quickly into clean coal technology to help achieve the UK's Kyoto targets. This can be achieved via the introduction of a "clean energy" obligation. Electricity from clean coal also has the benefit of being cheaper than renewables and will protect fuel security and diversity which are central to the Government's energy policy.

  COALPRO also calls for mine gas from abandoned and working collieries to be defined as a renewable source and advocates the need to support advanced technologies in energy from waste schemes.

January 2001

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