Muir Miller: Hunterston criticism is misplaced

Coal's dominant position in the world's energy markets is beyond dispute. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, the key contributor to that process won't be renewables or nuclear power, but coal-fired power stations fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Our proposals for such a facility at Hunterston were lodged with the Scottish Government in June and we are liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and North Ayrshire Council to refine these.

As part of its low-carbon strategy, the government recently published its electricity generation policy statement, setting out its position on renewable electricity and fossil fuel thermal generation in Scotland's future energy mix. Predictably, our opponents in the environmental lobby misinterpreted it as suggesting that ministers had abandoned their support for CCS.

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In reality, the statement supports CCS as an essential component of the energy generation mix, outlining what a major opportunity the technology presents for Scotland. We are enormously encouraged such a key policy is so consistent with our objectives.

It gives a clear view that rapid expansion of renewable generation capacity and the need for new efficient thermal capacity are required to achieve a low-carbon portfolio and address security of supply.

The power station at Hunterston would deliver a 25 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional coal-fired facilities. With demonstration-scale CCS fitted, a further 25 per cent reduction would be achieved. With CCS on the whole plant, expected by 2025, emissions are likely to be only 10 per cent of those of a conventional station.

We estimate Hunterston could meet the electricity needs of up to three million homes. The irony is that, in opposing the very technology that can do most to tackle global warming, our critics are focusing their energy in the wrong direction.

• Muir Miller is project director of Ayrshire Power.