Coal-fired power plants contribute 44% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions which is widely accepted to be the primary causes of global warming and climate change. As a result, governments around the world have introduced increasingly stringent regulations in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions with a strong focus on power plants fuelledby coal.
The European Parliament has made phasing out coal a major priority, committing member states to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is also ensuring that 20% of their total energy consumption is derived from renewable sources by 2020.
During the transition to a carbon neutral future and the elimination of fossil fuels, governments have a duty to deliver their residents secure, reliable and cost-efficient energy. Immediately shutting down coal-fired power stations would lead to a dramatic fall in electricity generation capacity, with potentially catastrophic economic and sociological consequences.
According to the IEA Clean Coal Centre, there are over 2,300 coal fired power plants worldwide (7,000 individual units). To date, the only method of reducing the CO2 emissions from these plants was to modify them - ‘retro-fitting’ - to burn white wood pellets. One of the best-known examples is the Drax power plant in the U.K., which has committed to spending some £700 million (US$1.1 billion) on converting three of its coal-fired generating units to burn white wood pellets, and a similar amount to establish white wood pellet manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to supply them with feedstock.