Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Plans for two coal power stations

Coal is not the greenest option for energy firms

Two energy firms have unveiled plans to build the first new coal-fired power stations in the UK for 20 years.

RWE Npower has submitted proposals to spend more than 1bn to replace its existing coal-fired station at Tilbury, Essex, by 2013.

And another German company, E.ON, is also hoping to replace its plant in Kingsnorth, Kent, by 2012.

The Department for Trade and Industry says both could be built if they meet planning and environmental regulations.

Npower says its new plant would emit 22% less carbon than existing coal-fired power stations and would be designed to use "carbon capture and storage" technology when it becomes viable.

It says the station would also have the capacity to burn carbon-neutral, sustainable, organic fuels known as "biomass".

E.ON, the company which runs energy supplier Powergen, says its development would reduce carbon emissions by more than two million tonnes a year compared to existing units.

Graphic showing carbon-capture technology

But BBC business correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said coal is still the dirtiest option for energy firms to choose.

Energy mix

Andy Duff, chief executive of RWE Npower, said its 1600-megawatt "high efficiency" station would be able to use carbon capture - trapping waste gas before it is released into the atmosphere - when it is ready.

But Npower concedes there are "many financial, legal, regulatory and technical hurdles" to overcome before that technology can be implemented.

The company began a feasibility study into the plant in April last year, but has not yet formally applied for permission to build.

Compared with the 'third world' our emissions are almost negligible
Philip, London

Nigel Staves, manager of Tilbury power station, said: "We very much look forward to hearing the views of local people and organisations and taking these on board."

Last month, Npower said it was committing 900m for a new gas-fired power station in Wales or Nottinghamshire and three new wind farms.

E.ON submitted a planning application last December.

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