POWER: Multi-fuel stations more advanced

Jonathan Arnott in his letter ‘Scrapping power stations is wrong’, (News Guardian, November 26), asks the question “Why are EU countries building coal-fired power stations?”

Perhaps there are two answers.

The first is that the European Union (EU) directive on climate change leaves it to individual countries to frame the directive into their own legal systems. The UK is the only country that has passed an Act of Parliament making gas emission targets mandatory. The rest of the EU is following guidelines, but retaining flexibility by not imposing legally binding limits for gas emissions on themselves.

The second is that other EU countries recognise that low cost electrical energy is essential to support manufacture, railway electrification and feeder industries, such as the steel and chemical industries. Without feeder industries the rest of industry cannot survive, resulting in high unemployment. It is rapidly being apparent that renewable energy will not provide the secure electrical energy required by modern society.

The EU is not really building ‘coal-fired’ power plants, but multi-fuel fossil-fired power plants, which can burn coal, gas, or oil; all in a single integrated power plant. Electrical power is generated at the lowest cost consistent with maintaining the minimum gas emissions. The fuel mix can be selected almost on a daily basis.

The units within these power plants utilise the latest technology working at higher temperature and pressures than yesterday’s power plants, significantly improving thermal efficiency. The plants provide secure power every day of the year.

The UK coal-fired power plants are typically 50 years old, based on outdated, inefficient technology, produce large amounts of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), and are uneconomic. They deserve to be shut down.

However, as Jonathan Arnott has observed, the neglect of our energy needs over the years has left us with no other option but to run these creaking coal-fired power plants. Unfortunately, we do not possess the skills or ability to construct multi-fuel power plants, which are being constructed in the EU. It is also noteworthy that Germany has abandoned the use of nuclear power.

One guesses that we must wait for about 12 years for our shiny, new, Chinese atomic power plants. Brevity forbids me to comment further.

John Cure

Whitley Bay