Reports finds coal future “uncertain”, plays down UK shale gas

Fossil fuels are still going to be important for the UK but the future for coal looks “uncertain” according to a new inquiry which also plays down the role of […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Fossil fuels are still going to be important for the UK but the future for coal looks “uncertain” according to a new inquiry which also plays down the role of shale gas.

Led by former energy minister Charles Hendry for think tank Carbon Connect, the independent report argues significantly decarbonising the power sector by 2030 will be the most successful strategy for energy sustainability, security and affordability.

Up to 91% of the unabated coal power station capacity in the UK could remain operating at the start of 2016 and into the 2020s, according to the finding, which could lead to high carbon emissions in the 2020s. The report suggests switching from coal to sustainable biomass or gas power stations.

Gas capacity – in unabated form which is less efficient than newer combined cycle gas turbines like Pembroke gas plant (pictured) – is likely to be needed through to 2030, suggests Carbon Connect, as backup for wind and peak electricity demand. However the UK should limit its role to this to keep power sector emissions under the intensity of 50-100 gCO2/kWh by 2030.

As for shale gas, it’s not likely to bring down prices, states the report: “In the event of cheap and plentiful domestic production, our liberalised and highly interconnected market would prevent UK gas prices remaining below that of prevailing European prices”.

Charles Hendry MP, co-chair of the report said: “This welcome and detailed report explains the importance of investing in carbon capture and storage to provide a future for fossil fuels and also touches on other solutions such as demand reduction and biomass conversion.”

Fellow chair of the report Baroness Worthington, Opposition Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson in the House of Lords said: “There are risks of prolonged high carbon emissions from both coal and gas power stations. Fossil fuels will continue to make a contribution to our energy mix for some time but this cannot come at the expense of our leadership on climate change.”