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UK energy minister says coal still has an important role to play

World Coal,

UK energy minister, John Hayes, stressed the continuing importance of coal in the UK energy mix in a speech given at the World Coal Association’s Leadership Reception. Echoing Nye Bevan’s famous quote, that the UK is an “island built on coal”, Hayes was keen to assure attendees that coal still had a future in the UK and that the UK Government was committed to helping the industry develop the clean technologies required to reduce emissions. As evidence of this, he highlighted the fact the three out of the four entrants in the government’s £1 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition were coal-fired power plants.

He also called for a “spirit of entrepreneurship” in the industry to push development of the necessary technologies, arguing that the UK had much to gain from exporting clean coal technologies around the world.

Although positive, the minister varied little from the usual rhetoric. Commenting on the speech, Tony Lodge, research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, told World Coal: “The minister gave a commitment to coal but in reality what does this mean? EU Directives will close a third of UK coal plants (8.5GW) by 2015 and the new UK carbon price floor starting at £16t/CO2 and rising will make generating electricity from coal very expensive, so other coal plants will surely close by 2020. This will significantly reduce UK coal burn and coal demand over the next eight years as the new ‘dash for gas’ takes hold.”

The World Coal Association (WCA) Leaders Reception was held to officially welcome Dr Zhang Xiwu as its new chairman. Dr Zhang, who assumed the role last November, is chairman of Shenhua Group Corp. Ltd, China’s largest coal producer. Under Dr Zhang’s leadership, the WCA will establish an industry research body in Beijing and develop a new global magazine aimed at providing a platform for the global coal industry. He replaces Fred Palmer, senior vice president of government relations at Peabody Energy.

Written by Jonathan Rowland.

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