Coal in the Community
Coal remains a major source of electricity generation and heating. In 2010 coal produced 32% of UK electricity, a figure which rose to 50% the winter. It constitutes a core supply that can be relied upon when low wind-speed affects wind power
or drought affects hydro-electricity.
Approximately 70% of coal burnt in the UK is imported, mainly from Russia. SRG produces approximately 17% of the total coal produced in the UK.
The UK and Scottish Governments have recognised the dangers of relying on imported energy fuels. They are developing policies to ensure diversification and security of supply, recognising the value of indigenous energy sources.
Governments recognise that in the decade ahead, failure to maintain substantial supplies of coal could lead to an over-dependence on gas, setting the scene for high and volatile prices.
It is estimated that the UK has 3,405Mt of coal resources. Of this, 70 Mt are at existing surface mines, or those with planning approval granted. In addition, estimates suggest there is a further 785 Mt within potential surface mine prospects.
The speed and extent to which these reserves could be exploited will depend crucially on the future regulatory framework and the carbon price. Whilst there is a recognition by the UK Government that indigenous coal should continue to play a major part in the future energy mix, it was made clear in a Government statement in April 2009 that " we need new coal-fired power stations, but only if they can be part of a low-carbon future."
SRG's view is that there is no credible alternative to coal to minimise the energy gap and control fuel poverty levels. But we also fully accept that society expects action to be taken to minimise the by-products of coal combustion.
As a result, SRG is of the view that coal fired generation (in its current form) is essential now and that coal fired generation (in a new reduced carbon form) will be essential in the future.
There are two principle areas where action is needed:
Combustion: The technology exists for high efficiency, low carbon combustion plants to be installed either in new or existing power stations. Doosan Babcock, based in Scotland, lead the field.
Carbon capture: Again, the technology exists to capture and dispose of the carbon. The most commonly known option is to extract the CO2 from the flue gases and pipe it to saline aquifers or abandoned hydrocarbon reservoirs where it should be contained by the same geological structures that trapped the saline waters or the oil and gas in the first place.
SRG fully supports the earliest possible introduction of these technologies and has actively lobbied both UK and Scottish Governments on the matter. SRG is also an active participant on several Government advisory groups including the UK "Coal Forum" and the Scottish "Thermal Generation and Carbon Capture and Storage Group".