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Power Stations (Emissions)

Volume 78: debated on Monday 29 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if, when he next meets the chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board, he will discuss sulphur emissions from power stations and the implications for the level of coal burn by the electricity supply industry.

I have discussed this with the chairman of the CEGB on a number of occasions. He is well aware of Government policy on reducing sulphur emissions.

As the Secretary of State for Energy is asking for an additional £2 billion in the Coal Industry Act 1984, would it not make sound economic sense to invest a substantial part of that sum in the only coalfield in western Europe which produces high quality, low sulphur coal, which is South Wales?

The availability of low sulphur coal in the United Kingdom is limited. It is to be found mostly in Scotland and Wales and amounts to about 12 per cent. of annual output. It is among the most expensive coal to extract. It is not, therefore, an economically practical method of reducing significantly sulphur dioxide emissions.

Is my hon. Friend aware that hi south Derbyshire we like coal-fired power stations and that many of my constituents work in them? Is he aware also that we manufacture the gadgets that will help to make them cleaner in future? These are produced by a number of companies in Derby and south Derbyshire. When he meets the CEGB's planners will he urge them, when they next consider building a coal-fired power station, to place it in my constituency?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's close interest in stations in her constituency—an interest which I share. I shall draw what my hon. Friend has said to the attention of the chairman of the CEGB.

Are the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) aware that good quality, low sulphur, low chlorine coal is produced in Ayrshire as well as in Wales and can be produced economically? As there is a great demand for it, and as it is attractive environmentally, is it not stupid of the Coal Board in Scotland to say that there is no long-term future for the Killoch and Barony pits in my constituency?

I am sure that the Coal Board's chairman will have heard the hon. Gentleman's words.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that total sulphur emissions have decreased in the United Kingdom in recent years but that, generally speaking, emissions from CEGB power stations have not? Does he agree that on environmental grounds, and recognising that it is possible economically to take this course, a priority programme should be launched by the CEGB to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions?

My hon. Friend is correct in saying that sulphur dioxide emissions have already decreased significantly. They have decreased by about 40 per cent. since 1970 and 20 per cent. since 1980. Emissions from CEGB power stations have decreased since 1979 and it is the Government's intention that further reductions shall be achieved. It is intended to achieve a 30 per cent. reduction on 1980 levels by the end of the 1990s.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is not just sulphur emissions from coal-fired power stations that are responsible for acid rain? He spoke about the 30 per cent. reduction target for 1992–93 outlined by the EEC. Will he also confirm that the chairman of the South of Scotland electricity board is claiming that Scotland has already achieved that 30 per cent. reduction?