We can meet Kyoto targets through existing technology


The key to meeting the world’s immediate energy and environmental needs lies not in new wind, wave and solar power installations, but in existing technologies that are available now.

Many renewable energy technologies are either still in their infancy, or do not deliver sufficient amounts of energy. Covering whole countries with wind turbines would not meet the world’s needs. However, based on technologies that are already well known and available, measures can be put into place in the next ten years at reasonable cost to meet our immediate energy needs, without damaging the climate and environment.

In the UK, this would be sufficient to meet not only our greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, but also the government’s stricter self-imposed target, which the Prime Minister recently said he believes we are unlikely to reach.

These arguments are detailed in the cover story of the latest issue of Plant Engineer, written by Dr Tom Shelley FSOE, the magazine’s technical editor.

The most significant measures relate to the UK’s existing coal-fired power stations:

* Re-equipping power stations with supercritical boilers, which run at higher temperatures and pressures
* Increasing the proportion of biomass used as fuel
* Using waste heat of combustion to preheat boiler feed water.

These measures alone would save 11.7Mtc (million tons of carbon), which would get us more than halfway towards the government’s own target.

Other suggested measures include:

* Switching homes and offices to use heat pumps, which take heat from the ground. Their use is well established in Sweden and Switzerland
* Building more nuclear power stations. The UK’s nuclear regulatory regime has for decades been more stringent than that of most other countries
* Burning fugitive methane emissions from disused coalmines. While this does produce carbon dioxide, it does eliminate methane, which has 23 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.

Dr Shelley says that a combination of these technologies is sufficient to meet our energy needs for the next two decades, while also meeting our Kyoto requirements. The article concludes: “There is no need to invent any new technologies. Large-scale solar and wave power generation, and mining the moon for helium-3 for nuclear fusion may well be required in the future, but there is no immediate need for them.”


1) Plant Engineer is the official journal of IPlantE, a professional sector of the Society of Operations Engineers. Views expressed within the journal are those of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SOE.

2) IPlantE was founded in 1946; it provides professional recognition and supports the personal development of engineers, technicians and those with an interest in the specification, installation, operation and maintenance of industrial plant and services.

3) The Society of Operations Engineers (SOE) is a professional membership organisation that represents more than 18,000 individuals and companies in the engineering industry. It supports and encourages best practice and health and safety initiatives, and is committed to the ongoing growth and personal development of its members through specialist knowledge-sharing and professional learning.

4) Plant Engineer is produced on behalf of the Society of Operations Engineers by Findlay Publications Ltd, the UK’s premier publishing and communications group serving manufacturing industry.

5) Dr Tom Shelley MA PhD MIMMM FSOE FIPlantE CEng is group technical editor at Findlay Publications, as well as being a Fellow of the Society of Operations Engineers.

Further information
For further information on Plant Engineer, please contact Dr Shelley at

For further information on IPlantE, please look at or contact Andrea Dick on

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