Ayrshire Power have confirmed that they are proceeding with an application to build a £3billion coal fired station in Ayrshire. The company claims that it will lodge plans to build the the 1.6 Gigawatt scheme shortly. A power plant of that size could supply around 3 million homes. The last coal fired power station built in Scotland was Longanett in 1973. Coal has been out of fashion in the drive to provide energy and much of this has been down to coals reputation as a dirty polluting fuel.
Environmentalists as expected are expressing great concern at this development as coal fired stations are heavy producers not only of CO2 but also of other pollutants.
The proposals include a commitment by the company to implement carbon sequestration for around 300Mw of the l.6Gw. That still means that three quarters of the production would be untouched by any carbon capture.
Personally I think that burning fossil fuels seems a very wasteful way of using key finite resources. At the same time there is a need to replace generating capacity so it's not easy for governments to ignore offers to build.
The inclusion of 300Mw of carbon sequestration in the proposal looks like a sweetener. The company will have done its sums and decided that it can afford more than this proportion and be profitable. They would be lousy negotiators if they haven't already factored in that they might have to increase the amount of carbon sequestration in the proposal.
To me the obvious solution would be to ask this company to demonstrate that it can get sizeable carbon sequestration working at the site before it is allowed any increase in capacity. Once they have such technology working then a station which burns coal cleanly might be tolerable as a part of the solution to our energy needs over the next 15 to 20 years.
Some would argue of course that there are major problems in the way our fuel economy works because it rewards large proposals like this rather than less glamourous proposals such as financing consumption and efficiency improvements. The reality is of course that both must be tackled - we do need more generating capacity but we should also be doing much more by driving fuel efficiency and developing more renewable supplies.
There is likely to be a great deal of opposition to this coal fired plant and it remains to be seen if it gets the go-ahead.