Talk:United Kingdom and coal

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Coal section

A recent report, written for the Minorca Opencast Protest Group "UK Opencast/Surface Mined Coal:Its Role in Providing UK Energy Security" updates the information about UK coal production. In 2008 the UK consumed 58.9m tonnes of coal which represented 16.9% of the energy supplied (see Table 1 p9). The UK produced 17.6m tonnes of coal and imported 43.9m tonnes of coal in 2008 (see Table 2 p9). In terms of UK coal production, of the 17.6m tonnes 8.096m tonnes (46%) was from deep mines and 9.509 (54%) was from opencast mines. In 3 of the last 4 years more opencast coal rather than deep mined coal has been produced (see Table 3). The report, written by Steve Leary came to the following conclusions:

1) This discussion of past and current trends argued that a sustainable domestic coal industry seems to be dependent on increasing the proportion of coal produced by opencast methods, eventually up to 100%.

2) It seems that there are no projections currently for the use of coal if CCS technology does not prove itself to be viable either practically or commercially. Until CCS is proven to be commercially viable the Energy Markets Review team should include a projection on the demand for coal which includes this possibility. (Section 5)

3) This discussion of past pollution issues suggests that there is likely to be a continuing decline in the demand for coal and that this level of demand is difficult to predict until the Carbon Capture and Storage systems prove themselves to be commercially viable. Even then newer technologies such as Underground Coal Gasification could have a significant impact on the future need for mined coal for generating purposes. (Section 5)

4) A future report in this series should look further at the future demand for coal topic so that an estimate can be given for the demand for coal when the following factors, for example, can be addressed: • The impact of the revised LCPD when it takes full effect in 2016 • The above plus evidence that carbon capture works or does not work • The impact of attempts to make more efficient use of the energy network such as the ‘intelligent grid’ idea • The increasing impact of renewable and bio-fuels • Consumers reducing their consumption of electricity. This is going to be an increasingly important issue for those communities facing new opencast mining applications for sites that, if the planning application was granted, would still be coaling during and after 2016. (Section 5)

5) As at September 2009, there is no immediate threat to the security of supply. One later indication was that stockpiles of coal were expected to increase during the winter of 2009 /10 as it looked as though gas would be a cheaper fuel to use as the ‘base load’ fuel for producing more than 50% of the UK electricity supply. (Section 6)

6) In the future the bulk of indigenous coal production is going to be from opencast coal, which is likely to be between 50 and 60% of the production in the medium term rising to 100% in the longer term, Planning approval would have to be on average for 10 new opencast mines each year between 2007 and 2017. If extend this time horizon to 2025 as Wicks does, then the prospect is that between 2007 and 2025 180 new opencast sites will need to gain planning permission. (Section 7)

7) In the future Energy Security issues will be used to justify granting planning permission for new opencast mines so that UK coal producers can assure generating companies that they will be able to provide indigenous coal for up to 5 years in the future. This demonstrates the interdependence between Planning Policy and Energy Policy. (Section 7)

8) What was an aspiration target of producing 20m tonnes of indigenous coal proposed by the Coal Forum is rapidly gaining the reputation of being an official government target, locking in the need for a predominantly opencast based indigenous coal industry for the foreseeable future. (Section 7)

9) Those opposing opencast mining applications will be in a ‘Catch 22’ situation where the new ‘Need for Coal’ argument could be wheeled out to justify every new application. Thus objectors will be ‘holed below the waterline’ before they even lodge an objection. (Section 7)

10) Unless there is some public subsidy new deep mines are unlikely and the existing deep mines, given recent experience, have a tenuous future. Evidence exists that the last deep mine may close as early as 2021, making the Governments Energy Security policy dependent on Opencast Coal. If any of them shut even more opencast coal production is likely. (Section 8)

11) In the opinion of those opposed to Opencast Mining, by relying on opencast coal for its Energy Security, the Government is allowing opencast operators to ‘borrow’ large tracts of the countryside, often in remote places where to transport the coal they have to use road transport, rip the countryside apart, create holes up to 200 metres deep, on sites that can be larger than Minorca’s at over a mile long and half a mile wide, destroy natural habitats, create noise and dust in a tranquil area, blight the lives of thousands of people all to produce ‘clean’ coal. (Section 9)

12) Numerous areas of the UK are at risk of being the victims of opencast mining in the future, 9 counties in England, 10 in Scotland, 3 in Wales and 1 in Northern Ireland. In addition 21 unitary authorities across England Scotland and Wales could also be affected. (Section 10)

13) In light of this evidence, it may be appropriate to suggest that the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee ask for further information on the issue of whether, in the foreseeable future, the fulfilment of Britain’s Energy Security policy is going to be dependent just on the production of opencast coal which will affect one or more of the local authority areas listed above. (Section 10)

If you want a full copy of this 32 page report you can either download it from the following web pages:


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