Analysts forecast that the UK carbon emissions will increase by 14% in 2012 compared to 2011. There are two main reasons for this, firstly a significant increase in the burning of coal in power stations in preference to gas, second a fall in the nuclear power output.
Coal is twice as polluting in terms of CO2 emissions compared to gas and the power output of UK coal power stations increased from 49.6 TWh to 67.2 TWh for the previous 12 month period. The reason for the increase in the coal burn (and subsequent drop in gas consumption) is the price drop in carbon credits. This makes it more profitable to burn coal.
Nuclear power output dropped by 5% and this is worrying as it is not due to economic factors but the retirement of elderly plants (Oldbury and Wylfa). This drop will continue as more elderly plants are taken out of service. It will be some time, decades perhaps, before the new nuclear build programme makes an impact on this decline in nuclear power output. This continuing fall in nuclear output is a consequence of past power economic planning and pandering to nimbyism; a sad reflection on the country that built the first nuclear power plant for commercial electricity production.
How is this increase in carbon emissions to be sorted? The bottom line is that the price of polluting must be higher than the price of buying renewable energy. This is the only way to reverse this trend. And why is this so important? The International Energy Agency warned earlier this year that we are in the last moments in history for us to take action to avoid heading towards a 5°C increase in average global temperature and the most catastrophic of those scenarios predicted by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report.