Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 11:49 UK

A coal-fired controversy in Kent

Kingsnorth power station
The current Kingsnorth power station will shut in the next seven years

The debate over electricity production is set to spark into life next week when hundreds of campaigners set up camp outside a Kent power station.

A week-long protest against plans to build a coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth on the Hoo peninsula starts on Monday.

E.ON UK has said it will demolish the existing power station and replace it with a 20% cleaner coal-fired unit.

But campaigners say coal should not be part of the UK's energy future and want money spent on green technologies.

All parties agree that coal-fired power produces the most carbon emissions and that these need to be severely reduced if the UK is going to help tackle climate change.

So will the new power station be clean enough? Or does it just add to the UK's output of CO2? BBC South East has spoken to the key players involved.

MALCOLM WICK MP - MINISTER FOR ENERGY

"We have made it clear that we think coal should be part of the mix in the future. We are absolutely determined as soon as we can to develop clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Malcom Wicks
Malcom Wicks said energy security was a government concern
"We know that China is building coal-fired power stations and the real prize is to develop technology so that the CCS technology can be fitted onto coal power plants in places like China.

"While I fervently believe that climate change is the biggest pre-eminent challenge for our planet in the 21st Century, we also have to worry about energy supply and energy security and we have to go in for diversity and therefore coal needs to be part of the mix.

"Although for some protesters the great challenge is Britain with no coal at all - just washing our hands of it - the challenge for us in the UK government is to be one of those lead nations developing clean coal technologies that will benefit the globe, the planet as a whole.

"I think that is the responsible thing to do."

GREENPEACE

"We don't feel we should be burning coal at this stage in the climate crisis. For the government to be considering building a whole new fleet of coal fired power stations is real madness," said Joss Garman.

Joss garman
Joss Garman wants more invest in renewable technology
""The government have this decision this year which will decide whether Britain is locked into high emissions for the next 40 or 50 years

"We need the government to put in incentives and frameworks that will allow companies like E.ON to opt for renewable options.

"Why are we going for the most polluting option when low carbon, tried and tested technologies, like wind power, like solar power, already exist and could be rolled out?"

Nathan Argent said: "Kent has a massive role to play in delivering renewable energy. If you look at the London Array, the offshore wind farm, and you've also got the Kentish flats.

"There's huge potential in Kent for both investment in renewable energy but also in the economy, and Kent really could be at the heart of our fight against climate change."

EMILY HIGHMORE - EO.N

"The UK is facing a major challenge at the moment. We've got a third of our power stations closing in the next 10 to 20 years so we need to fill the gap so we can keep the lights on.

Emily Highmore
Emily Highmore said Kingsnorth could demonstrate CCS to the world
"Kingsnorth power station is going to be closing by the end of 2015. What we want to do is replace it with something that is much cleaner.

"What we are talking about is technology that will allow us to produce electricity from coal that is far cleaner than we have ever seen before in the UK.

"It's a 20% improvement in efficiency, that means 20% less carbon emissions which can only be a good thing.

"We believe that carbon capture and storage is absolutely critical if we are going to tackle global climate change.

"What we want to do is demonstrate this new technology at Kingsnorth so that one day it can be exported around the world to all coal-fired power stations."

TIM YEO MP - ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN

"Although the industry is talking about fitting carbon capture and storage, nobody knows how soon this can be done.

"So what the committee is saying is that the government should not allow any new coal-fired power stations to be built unless there is an absolute condition that they won't operate without CCS.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo believes Kingsnorth should only be built if CCS is fitted
"There are other ways of producing electricity, we could do with more wind power, particularly off-shore in the south east, we could do probably with more nuclear power as well.

"Coal is the dirtiest option and environmentally disastrous if we allow coal-fired power stations to be built without carbon capture and storage.

"If we do not move to low carbon electricity generation in this country we will face a terrible problem in 10 years time and pay an even bigger price when we have to solve it then.

"We need to step up the research programme very urgently because Britain needs this technology, the world needs it and the first companies that have it are going to benefit commercially."




SEE ALSO
Clean deadline call on coal power
22 Jul 08 |  Science/Nature
Row over coal power station plan
03 Jan 08 |  England

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