Emails spark coal power plant row

Utility giant E.ON UK has rejected claims from Greenpeace that it is dictating policy to Government officials dealing with its application to build the UK's first new coal-fired power plant in more than 20 years.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, campaigners from Greenpeace obtained emails sent last month between employees at E.ON and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) about Kingsnorth, in Kent.

The emails discussed whether a condition should be imposed on E.ON to fit carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the plant if the plans get the green light from Secretary of State John Hutton.

The E.ON email said they were reluctant to agree to the condition and Mr Hutton had “no right to withhold approval for Conventional plant”.

It added: “The CCS plant can not be built first (obviously due to spatial restraints and current scale of technology) and it has no current reference for viability at any scale.”

The reply from BERR said: “Thanks I won’t include.”

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “These Whitehall documents reveal a pillar of the Government’s climate and energy strategy evaporating in six minutes under the pressure of a single email from a German coal company.”

He added: “A week after this email was written, ministers were telling the public we’d be generating between 30% and 40% of our electricity from renewables by 2020.”

E.ON said it did not want to include conditions for using CCS because the technology was still unproven, but it would make the plant ready to use the technology.

Jonathan Smith, acting head of PR for E.ON UK, told edie: “If Government was to give us permission for Kingsnorth only with the condition that it had to have CCS, Kingsnorth could not be built.

“We are still committed to making it CCS-ready and we are still entering the Government’s CCS competition.”

Last month, local planners agreed not to raise a formal objection to E.ON’s plans. The final decision about whether to grant planning permission will be made by Government.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie