The decision to close the Longannet power station by March 2015 is a very good choice if taken by the UK government, although grid connection charges are responsible for the closure there is great potential for environmental gain despite short term economic pain. The issue of climate change is very severe and no responsible government should take a risk on climate change. Government should focus on how to achieve an energy system that is sustainable, affordable and clean.
If decarbonisation targets are to be met, any role for coal needs to be carefully controlled. Generating power from coal is carbon intensive, than modern gas fired plants which emitting a lesser amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity generated. The potential for coal fired power stations to undermine long term carbon-abatement goals is substantial. Great Britain still has nine operational coal fired power stations, representing approximately 19 GW2 or around one fifth of existing electricity generating capacity.
After decades of action on climate change, a greater amount of UK's energy still comes from coal which is not sustainable in an advance economy like Britain. Government need to build a new energy infrastructure, fit for the 21st century. We know that in isolation, cuts to Britain's own greenhouse gas emissions, would do little to global climate change however it will project the image of UK in the international community and set model for other countries to follow.
The Scottish power website (http://www.scottishpower.com) reveal that Longannet Power Station has instillation capacity of 2,400MW of electricity. The latest findings from Europe Dirty Thirty report (http://www.wwf.eu) disclose Longannet is among the thirty dirtiest coal power plant in Europe with emission of 10.1MtCO2. The green peace international campaign on climate change (http://www.greenpeace.org) stated that on average a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant generate nearly 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Coal-burning power plants are a significant source of Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Nitrogen oxides are also greenhouse gasses that react with organic compounds to form smog, which harms the vegetation, making it exposed to disease and extreme weather. It can also damage human health by causing increased risk of asthma, lung impairment and premature death (http://www.greenpeace.org). Smouldering coal discharges a lot of the neurotoxin mercury into the air. Mercury can damage the liver, the kidneys, the digestive and respiratory systems, as well as cause brain and neurological damage. In natural ecosystems it is toxic to aquatic life. Morrison et al. (2013)
Global climate change is caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change are products of coal combustion: carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). As the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere increase, the average global temperature slowly increases, setting signal to actions that further promote climate change such as melting of polar ice. (Erica et al. 2013)
The UK government has made commitment for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average 12.5 percent base year levels over the five-year period for first and second commitment of the Kyoto protocol. By 2012, the Britain's emissions had fallen by 25% on 1990 levels, making the international target under the Kyoto Protocol achieved, as well as its national legally binding target. This makes the UK a leading light in reducing greenhouse gas emissions among major economies, emitting more than they were in 1990 such as US and Japan.
The UK is signatory to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Rio Summit in 1992 which entered into force in 1994. The non-binding Copenhagen Accord which was agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. The Copenhagen Accord allow countries to voluntarily take action in order to stop the average global temperature rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius.
The UK's role in that global decarbonisation is to provide a compelling example to the rest of the world of how to cut carbon. One of the greatest and most cost-effective contributions we can make to emission reductions in electricity is by replacing coal fired power stations with renewable energy.
Economic and social benefits of a low-carbon
Carbon taxes introduced in UK to phase out coal generation are affecting power stations across the Europe such as Longannet power plant. The price of carbon has been increasing together with the transmission charges make the future operation uneconomical. Scotland currently enjoys a position of being a net exporter of electrical energy to England and Northern Ireland. The loss of Longannet not only threatens this position but it also increases the risk of instability of the electricity grid in Scotland. However more incentives for renewables will be needed for some time as innovation continues and costs come down the learning curve of course, just as with any major technology shift, the move to a low-carbon economy will result in job losses, and there should be transition assistance in the sector for affected workers. The low-carbon economy is likely to create more jobs through a more secure and sustainable future.
However, carbon tax increase the cost of producing goods and services. Those cost increases would provide an incentive to manufacturing industries for product that will reduce carbon dioxide emission. Higher production costs would also lead to higher prices for intensive carbon emission product, which would encourage households to use less of them and more of other goods and services. Marketing improved energy efficiency is easy because it makes sense from both energy security and economic view, in addition to its positive impact on the climate. But harder choices will be required in the energy sector: renewables and other low-carbon options still cost more than most high-carbon sources.
The impacts of reducing industry GHG emissions are widespread and vary considerably between different industry sectors. The low-carbon transition will benefit high-tech manufacturing industries due to an increase in demand for energy-efficient products, whilst industry sectors that are electricity-intensive will be more affected by higher electricity prices. Revolution in energy production would make developing nations to get new innovations in power generation technology for example, will bring socio economic growth and development and improvements in solar power could make electricity more accessible and sustainable to the developing nation.
Renewable Energy options
The UK is lagging behind other leading economies such as South Korea and China in research and development into clean technology, despite the fact that UK inventors are registering more patents than ever before and has minimized proportion of gross domestic product over time. Scotland is a substantial and reliable net exporter of electricity, with over a quarter of all Scottish generation exported in 2012 – effectively, Scotland is now the UK's energy reserve. The European Union goal is to ensure that 20% of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2020. The UK Government's plans to deliver around 16 GW of new nuclear power by 2030 broadly equates to a commitment to support the construction and operation of at least 12 new nuclear reactors. Other renewable energy options UK can enhance are Nuclear power, Geothermal, onshore wind, offshore wind, Tidal energy and Biomass.
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