Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Confederation of UK Coal Producers

  The Confederation of UK Coal Producers (COALPRO) represents the interests of coal producers throughout the UK. Member companies collectively mine over 20 million tonnes of coal per annum and employ about 10,000 people. We are pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the Science and Technology Committee's inquiry into energy R&D.

  COALPRO is a member of the Advanced Power Generation Technology Forum (APGTF), an Office of Science and Technology, Foresight Associate Programme which provides a focus for those with an interest in RD&D in the power generation sector, particularly generation from fossil fuels. The Technology Forum has made a submission on key RD&D issues to the DTI's Energy Policy Review. COALPRO helped draft this submissions and is pleased to attach a copy for your consideration.

  COALPRO has also made its own submission to the Energy Policy Review in which we make the following broad policy recommendations:

    —  Recognition that indigenous coal production has a national security value.

    —  Support UK coal producers under EU State aid rules.

    —  Environmental regulation that encourages the cleaner use of coal, not an end to its use.

    —  Accept the reality that coal is a flexible and economic fuel for power generation.

    —  A Clean Coal Obligation to support, for example, new IGCC power stations.

  There are some specific actions which COALPRO recommends the Government takes immediately:

    —  Do not implement the EU Large Combustion Plants Directive any more rigorously than other Member States.

    —  Remove the presumption against opencast coal mining in Mineral Planning Guidance note 3 (and NPPG 16 in Scotland).

    —  Move ahead with the supercritical boiler retrofit project at an existing coal-fired power station as recommended by the DTI in its Review of the case for government support for cleaner coal technology demonstration plant dated 13 December 2001.

    —  Remove the 2006, 75% energy crop requirement under the Renewables Obligation Order.

  We attach COALPRO's initial submission to the Energy Policy Review and a summary. I would draw your attention to a few interesting points from these two papers:[8]

    —  The UK consumes less than 1.5% of world coal production and is similarly responsible for less than 2% of global CO2 emissions. Unilateral, domestic action will not solve the global problem of climate change.

    —  If we assume that we are entering a transition period leading "towards a non-carbon fuel economy", then there must be a proper acceptance that this entails the continued consumption of fossil fuels over the medium term (perhaps lasting many decades). There is a real need to address the impact of this consumption, yet the focus remains the endpoint, with vast sums spent on renewable sources that simply do not have the capacity to deliver even a small fraction of the energy that this country needs.

    —  On a consumption basis, UK CO2 emissions are rising, not falling as the Government reports.

    —  There should be a linkage between the Government's energy policy and waste strategy. A small number of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power stations would solve the country's waste disposal problem and allow a significant reduction in the CO2 emissions from coal-fired power generation.

  With respect to the Science and Technology Committee's inquiry, COALPRO has prepared the following comments against the terms of reference:

1.  To evaluate the level of expenditure on RD&D in non-carbon energy technologies, by UK Government, the Research Councils, the Carbon Trust and industry, and where it is being directed

  Where money is spent on RD&D to reduce carbon emissions, it should be used to support a range of technologies that achieve this aim. The focus of the funding bodies named is now biased towards a single, long-term solution: renewable energy. There is much work to be done to reduce the impact of fossil fuel consumption, but this is largely ignored.

2.  To identify which technologies are, or should be, receiving support, and how much investment is directed at research, development and demonstration respectively

  The Governments policy on energy is to ensure secure, diverse and sustainable supplies at a competitive cost. Diversity demands a balance of energy sources for power generation and transport. Therefore a wide range of technologies should be supported at the RD&D stages. Technologies should include those directed at reducing carbon emissions from fossil-fuel use: eg IGCC, carbon capture and sequestration, production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, and efficiency improvements at existing power stations.

3.  To assess the skills base and the state of RD&D for different technologies

  Environmental lobbying groups, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and even the Government's own Environment Agency, have been very successful with their publicity (eg the emotive "what's in your backyard" campaign run by the Environment Agency). Their position is rarely pragmatic, often idealistic. Yet the "green" message is now so strong that it has indoctrinated the very school children who are needed to develop practical solutions. If the energy industries are continually presented as polluting pariahs, then it is not surprising that talent is not attracted into the industry. Compare the situation in the UK with that of France where the public perception of nuclear power is far more balanced.

4.  To establish how Government policy on energy RD&D is formulated, implemented and evaluated, and the nature of coordination between department, external agencies and industry

  There needs to be much greater industrial consultation and involvement. However, concerns about breaking State aid rules seem to stultify the Government. In other countries, governments appear more supportive, using demonstration projects to stimulate RD&D activity.

5.  To establish the level of and rationale for international collaboration in energy RD&D and how priorities are determined

  The Government cannot establish or maintain a robust capability in energy technologies by relying on international collaboration. We need to have national programmes to create the expertise that will enable us to play a proper international role. RD&D is essentially a competitive activity, we cannot expect others to share, or even to partake in joint programmes unless we have something to offer ourselves.

6.  To examine the effect on energy RD&D of privatisation, liberalisation, regulation and changes in ownership in the sector

  The well-regarded research establishments of the CEGB and British Coal have not been replaced under private ownership of the electricity and coal industries. Cost cutting measures have seen more and more engineers leave all parts of the energy industry which has had a negative effect on RD&D. Compare this with the well-funded Federal Energy Technology Center, Gas Research Institute and Electric Power Research Institute in the USA. The government's liberalisation policy needs to be balanced with incentives that encourage investment in technological development.

7.  To make comparisons with overseas competitors

  The USA is committed to spending $2 billion on clean coal technologies over the next 10 years. This should be compared with a UK spend of less than £5 million per annum and shows how serious the USA is in reducing the impacts of coal consumption (US Department of Energy, National Energy Policy—report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2001). In Germany, government and industry are working closely together to continue a programme that has seen a steady improvement in the efficiency of coal-fired power stations (Emax—strategy study for the realisation of a fossil-fired power plant with high efficiency, project no. 232, VGB PowerTech, 2002).

25 September 2002

8   Not published. Back

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