Harmful fossil fuels are making an unlikely comeback in the UK

Lewis Smith (edited@ev_bartlett
Tuesday 01 September 2015 09:00
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(Picture: Getty

It has emerged that two of Britain's largest energy suppliers are using more coal than they did ten years ago while the development of the largest new gas field in the UK North Sea has been given the go ahead.

Coal

British Gas and SSE, which have over 40 per cent of the market between them, now use more coal to produce electricity than they did in 2005, new figures suggest.

Experts said their reliance on coal – the dirtiest form of fossil fuel, which produces twice as much CO2 as gas – was undermining attempts to cut the UK’s carbon emissions through renewable supplies.

The Big Six energy companies are now buying more than a third of the energy that they sell from polluting coal-fired power stations, and have cut back on buying power from more expensive but greener gas-fired power stations.

Read Oliver Wright's full report here

Gas

Picture: Getty

At peak production in 2020/21 the Culzean field off Scotland, which has just been given the go ahead, is expected to produce enough gas to meet five per cent of total UK demand, according to operator Maersk Oil.

It was discovered in 2008 and with an estimated reserve of 250 to 300 million barrels of oil equivalent it is described by Maersk as the largest gas field sanctioned for exploitation since East Brae in 1990.

Already the UK’s oil and gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and this £3 billion investment comes on the back of massive government support for the sector.

  • George Osborne, speaking in Scotland on Monday

Gas is expected to start flowing from the field in 2019 and continue for at least 13 years with peak production of 60,000 to 90,000 barrels per day, Maersk Oil said.

What's being done to combat this?

The campaign group 38 Degrees and the Big Deal, a consumer collective, are preparing to launch a drive to persuade consumers to switch energy suppliers to companies offering zero-carbon electricity.

The Clean Energy Switch will attempt to use the bargaining power of tens of thousands of people to cut the cost of buying renewable energy.

They hope the move will put pressure on the Big Six to cut their reliance on fossil fuel generation and spur further investment in renewable technologies.

In the face of cuts to green projects and subsidies, the Tory Government has given the impression that they have little interest in promoting green energy.

By harnessing the power of consumers, we can make it easy for people to help combat climate change, save money and support the renewables industry. I encourage as many as possible to sign up.

  • Angus MacNeil, SNP MP, chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee

You can sign up for the Clean Energy Switch here

More: All the ways in which this is not the 'greenest government ever'

More: New figures show 'greenest government ever' is failing to reach targets

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