Coal-fired Power Stations — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:34 pm on 27th April 2016.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 3:34 pm, 27th April 2016

I hope the industry will be involved in that. However, the hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind that, although a great deal of intellectual property remains from the project that was to take place in his constituency, for example, the project itself was not at all progressed—the CCS industry in this country remains nascent, so for the industry to take on the load of developing itself to any extent over the next period seems to be quite an ask. It is therefore essential for the Government to become involved in strategising and underwriting the development of CCS. I hope that that will now be done, even if it is not at the same level of expense as in the original two projects supported by the Government.

On the future of coal-fired power stations in the UK, it is important to be clear. The proposal is to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025, which has been mentioned this afternoon. The Government have suggested that there should be a consultation leading to the closure, subject to the caveat put forward last autumn by the Secretary of State in her energy reset speech:

“we’ll only proceed if we’re confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timescales.”

That is the caveat on the proposal to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

The estimate is that only something like 1% of our electricity will be supplied from coal by 2025 because of the closures of coal-fired power stations for various reasons, other than the Government saying that they should close by 2025—those reasons include the European large plant directive, the age of the plants, the running out of the plants, and the economics of running them. Therefore, those plants are likely to close by that date anyway. One way or another, we face the prospect of pretty much all coal-fired power stations in the UK being closed, and the hon. Member for Cannock Chase rightly raises the issue of what will happen to those sites. What should be done with all of them, not just Rugeley B power station?

A number of us can sympathise with the issue of what happens to a large site that is vacated in or around one’s own constituency. Recently, a Ford transit van plant located on the edge of my constituency closed, creating a 600-acre site. We need to think carefully about assistance for the people who have been displaced from the site by the closure, the different possible uses for the site, and the best use given its connections and how it is going to work in future. Those are all important considerations, and the hon. Lady is clearly alive to all the issues to do with what can be done with the Rugeley B site.

No other world car manufacturer is hovering in the wings, waiting to occupy the Ford site near my constituency and to build cars instead of the Ford Motor Company. However, as far as Rugeley B is concerned, the hon. Lady has looked at whether it could remain, if not as a coal-fired station, then as another form of power station. That particular line of reasoning makes considerable sense. Her suggestion is also germane to the issue of our energy mix in future years: could Rugeley B be converted into a gas-fired power station?

Like Michael Fabricant, who I am afraid is no longer in his place, I looked at Google Maps and a large National Grid gas line runs right alongside Rugeley B power station. So the question of changing the configuration of Rugeley B from coal to gas is, in principle, very doable as far as the supply of gas to the power station is concerned. The issue would be the circumstances in which any such conversion could take place. My concern is that, in particular instances, the mechanisms in this country for encouraging the development of new gas-fired power stations, assuming that we need a number of them over coming years—