The third worst eyesore in Britain, according to readers of Country Life, and one of our top three polluters, closed forever today.
Didcot A coal-fired power station has fallen foul of the Large Combustion Plant Directive, a European ruling to close the continent’s dirtiest power stations, and will no longer be spewing thousands of tonnes of CO2, not to mention acutely toxic pollutants, into the atmosphere and into nearby Radley Lakes.
Several doomed attempts were made to edge this filthy dinosaur into the twenty-first century, with gas and biomass added to the fuel supply and filters added to remove Nitrous Oxide. Greenpeace lent a hand when we blocked the coal conveyer belts, forcing the plant to switch to gas during our occupation, and a group of volunteers climbed the chimney and branded the plant ‘Blair’s Legacy’.
Here’s one of those volunteers, Ben Stewart from our Press Office, questioning the Prime Minister from the top of the chimney -
Unfortunately, even burning a lower carbon fuel like gas, plants like Didcot are still carbon intensive due to the low efficiency of large, centralised power stations. They waste two thirds of the energy they produce because heat can’t be easily transported, and so these power stations just release it into the atmosphere through their giant cooling towers.
Gas has a role in the UK’s energy system, as back-up for renewables used in flexible combined heat and power (CHP) stations where both the electricity and heat can be used by the local homes and businesses. CHP plants can be three times as efficient as big, centralised plants like Didcot.
Thanks in large part to the pressure Greenpeace supporters brought to bear on the last government, dirty monsters like Didcot A will never be built in the UK again. But switching from big, centralised coal to big, centralised gas, as George Osborne is pushing for, is no more sustainable than switching from Marlborough to Silk Cut.
It’s time to quit, George.