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Lord Turner calls for wind and nuclear power in race to cut emissions

Times Online
The Times
November 10, 2008

A huge increase in electricity generation is needed if the Government is to achieve its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, according to Gordon Brown’s adviser on climate change.

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, chairman of the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, said that such drastic cuts would require the complete decarbonisation of the country’s power system and the electrification of large parts of the economy that at present are reliant on other, carbon-based forms of energy.

“It’s quite possible that in a decarbonised economy we could use much more electricity than we do now,” he told The Times ahead of the publication of his report on climate change, which is due on December 1. “We may want to use electricity for other purposes than currently — electric or hybrid cars or taking gas central heating out of houses and replacing it with electricity.”

His report is designed to lay out a road map for meeting the 2050 goal, including five-year “carbon budgets” for different industries, including transport, power generation and manufacturing. Lord Turner called for a huge increase in wind and nuclear power to help to cut emissions and also for the rapid development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on a commercial scale.

“By 2030 we want to radically reduce the grams [of carbon dioxide] per kilowatt hour in the UK generating system,” he said, adding that the retirement of a string of large coal-fired plants in 2015 to meet new European Union emissions standards would present a unique opportunity to decarbonise Britain’s power grid. “Over the next 15 years we need to replace these with three low-carbon technologies – nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage.”

Lord Turner said that the construction of new coal-fired power stations should be banned in Britain unless their carbon dioxide emissions could be captured for safe storage. That recommendation is likely to represent a blow for E.ON, the German energy company, which wants to build a coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth, Kent.

Lord Turner refused to comment directly on the Kingsnorth site and E.ON’s plans, but he ruled out the possibility of allowing unabated new coal-fired power stations to be built in the UK unless they could be fitted with CCS, either before commercial use or at a later date. He added that he would make a statement on coal-fired plants in the report.

His comments contrast with the economic problems facing Britain’s renewable energy industry, which is struggling to deal with the impact of the credit crunch and the collapsing price of oil on world markets.

Last week, BP said that it was pulling out of a British CCS project and was abandoning the domestic wind energy industry altogether in search of higher returns in the United States.

Other renewable energy projects are struggling under the twin burdens of high costs and a lack of finance. The weaker oil price has also undermined their economic attractiveness to lenders and investors.

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