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Britain approves trio of gas-fired power plants

  The British government has approved three big new power stations that will supply electricity for millions of homes and replace some of the old plants due to close over the next few years.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said on Thursday it had approved RWE nPower’s plan to build Britain’s biggest gas-fired power station near Pembroke in Wales, Centrica’s project for a 1,020-megawatt plant in Norfolk and Powerfuel Power’s 900-MW gas plant in Yorkshire.

“It is essential to replace older polluting power stations that are reaching the end of their lives with new stations that operate more efficiently,” energy minister Mike O’Brien said. “These power stations will generate energy for four million homes for decades to come.”

Each power station developer has agreed to set aside land to retrofit a carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment in future if the technology ever becomes commercially viable. Powerfuel Power Ltd’s project at Hatfield is for a natural gas fired facility that will later use synthetic gas made from coal to drive its turbine. CCS has not yet been proven on a commercial scale and phase two of the Hatfield project will not be allowed to go ahead until the developers show how it is going to work, the government said.

Britain urgently needs to build more power stations to replace its ageing coal and nuclear power plants. Rising concerns over carbon emissions has blocked plans for new coal fired plants, while new nuclear reactors planned in Britain are nearly a decade away from completion. This has left utilities with little choice but to build gas plants and wind farms to try to fill the gap in generation expected by the middle of the next decade and they complain that planning approvals are taking too long.

“To fill the gap which will be left by old plant that is closing, we shall need far more new capacity,” David Porter, CEO of the Association of Electricity Producers said. „Power companies will have to invest £100 billion ($146 billion) in new plant and timely planning decisions will be vital.”

The UK arm of German utility RWE said work on its £1 billion 2,000-megawatt plant would start soon, employing up to 2,000 people during construction which is expected to take about three years and employ over 100 people during operation. Pembroke will be a combined cycle gas turbine power station and will be built by engineering company Alstom under an agreement signed in August 2007.

Workers for some subcontractors used by Alstom to build RWE’s Staythorpe power plant in central England and Centrica’s Langage power plant in the southwest walked off both sites earlier this week in sympathy with striking workers at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire. “No construction sub-contractors have yet been selected for Pembroke,” a spokeswoman for the utility said. (Reuters)