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Sunday, February 24, 2013

An easy way to keep British lights on...

English: Godfrey Bloom, Member of the European...
English: Godfrey Bloom, Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Keep the home fires burning: the Drax coal-fired power station has cleaned up its act
Keep the home fires burning: the Drax coal-fired power station has cleaned up its act Photo: Getty Images 
It is a chilling prospect, and it is not long before it is invoked whenever voices are raised in the ever more heated energy debate. Unless a particular panacea – whether wind power, nuclear energy or shale gas – is vigorously pursued, we are told, “the lights will go out”.
This week, however, the threat has seemed particularly real, following a stark warning from Alistair Buchanan, the Government’s official energy watchdog. Writing exclusively in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph, Ofgem’s chief executive described the country’s energy security as on a “rollercoaster” about to “head downhill fast”. Within the next three years, he explained, Britain’s reserve electricity generation would shrink from its present around 14 per cent of capacity to an “uncomfortably tight” less than five per cent.
This “near crisis”, as he later called it, is being precipitated by shutting down coal-fired power stations to comply with EU pollution law. Cue understandable – if predictable outrage – with one Ukip MEP, Godfrey Bloom, protesting that Europe’s “flawed and dangerous climate change agenda is stripping Britain of self-sufficiency” through the “unnecessary closure of perfectly good” facilities.
But he should, perhaps, calm down a little. For a start, the closures have nothing to do with combating global warming. The cumbersomely entitled Large Combustion Plants Directive is about cutting releases of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates from power stations that are calculated to kill some 2,000 Britons a year.
Adopted with full British approval, it laid down that generators should install equipment to reduce these emissions – which is precisely what many, including some in this country, did. But, perhaps generously, it also allowed plants that wanted to carry on polluting to do so, for a total of 20,000 hours between 2008 and the end of 2015.

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