Can we really do without coal? - part II

By John Kemp

The question is how to shut down the fleet of old power plants that fall far below these standards. “To reduce emissions, replacement of the oldest plant should be a high priority, but it is rarely economic, and electricity demand growth dictates that these plants often remain open,” the International Energy Agency explained in 2006.

But modern plants built on a scale of 500 or even 1000 megawatts, with ultra-supercritical boilers, can achieve thermal efficiencies of 40 per cent or more, burning less coal to produce the same amount of power.

Coal power plants in China and other developing economies are creating killer smogs, which are poisoning the population as well as spewing billions of tonnes of greenhouse-causing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Modern coal-fired power plants can make a contribution towards slowing climate change, in combination with more use of natural gas, renewables such as wind and solar, nuclear power, and energy efficiency measures on the demand side.

In the United States, the Obama administration is now attempting to force these old power plants to shut or undertake expensive upgrades by introducing strict rules on pollution and carbon emissions.

Rather than trying to shut down the coal industry, campaigners would be more effective if they focused on trying to modernise the electricity sector to use newer, larger, cleaner and more efficient power plants.

China, India and even the United States are now building power plants that are larger, far more efficient and with better pollution-control technology.

Read more here: Business Spectator

    

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