HC Deb 25 July 1988 vol 138 cc7-8
5. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what recent representations he has received for additional retrofitting of flue gas desulphurisation equipment at existing power stations to reduce the problems of acid rain.

Mr. Michael Spicer

A few letters have been received by my Department on this and other aspects of acid rain.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that there is obviously concern in Europe and in certain parts of the United Kingdom about the pollution and acid rain that is caused by our power stations? Is he satisfied with the CEGB's rate of progress in the retro-fitting that has already been agreed? Will he speed that up, and does he agree that there should be more?

Mr. Spicer

We accept that there is some anxiety on this matter in Europe and elsewhere. That is why the Government are committed to agreeing to the EC large combustion plant directive, by which sulphur dioxide emissions will be reduced by 40 per cent. on the 1980 figures by 1998, and by 60 per cent. by 2003. That comes on top of the 40 per cent. reduction since 1970.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Will the cost of the massive regulatory system to be introduced following privatisation be passed to the distribution industry or to the consumers, and not left with the manufacturers of electricity?

Mr. Spicer

The passing on of generating costs is being seriously considered in the context of consultations on regulation. I assure my hon. Friend that we are also seriously considering any discrimination between those which have flue gas desulphurisation and those which do not.

Mr. Barry Jones

May I have an assurance from the Minister that if Connah's Quay power station in my constituency, which is now redundant, were brought back on stream post-privatisation, desulphurisation equipment would be fitted? Does the Minister understand that up to 12 redundant power stations are being considered for use if privatisation goes forward? Does he know on average how much it would cost per power station to fit desulphurisation equipment? We should be told those figures.

Mr. Spicer

The cost per large station of, say, 2,000 MW is about £220 million. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is yes, that would be required. It is a matter for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution whether smaller stations should be fitted with this equipment.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Is my hon. Friend aware that one coal-fired power station fitted with this equipment will use about 300,000 tonnes of limestone a year and will produce large quantities of sludge which will somehow have to be disposed of? Does he agree that we are solving one problem by creating another and that it would be preferable simply to burn less fossil fuel?

Mr. Spicer

My hon. Friend makes his own point in the last part of his question. His figure of 300,000 tonnes of limestone is correct, but it must be put in context. It is 0.3 per cent. of the United Kingdom's annual production.

Mr. Wigley

In view of the Secretary of State's comments that if the full environmental cost of coal were compared with nuclear electricity the comparison would be very different, is it not incumbent upon the Government to make sure that all the expenditure necessary to minimise acid rain is undertaken so that we do not suffer the environmental consequences that Wales is presently suffering?

Mr. Spicer

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said and I repeat that we are taking major steps to reduce acid rain to 60 per cent. of the 1980 figure by the year 2003

Forward to