Longannet 'could operate until 2025'
The huge coal-fired power station at Longannet in Fife could continue to operate until 2025, Scotland's energy minister has said.
But environmentalists have warned that could mean Scotland fails to meet its legally-binding commitment of a 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Longannet is one of Europe's largest coal-fired power stations.
It burns up to 1,000 tonnes of coal an hour, producing huge volumes of greenhouse gases.
End Quote Dr Sam Gardner WWF Scotland
We know that Longannet has a history of trying to pursue CCS, but we haven't seen it proven commercially”
Plans to capture the power station's carbon emissions and store them beneath the North Sea have stalled.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme the successful development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would be vital.
He said: "If you look at the European position as a whole, the International Energy Agency has made it clear that without carbon capture and storage, it will be difficult or impossible for these targets on carbon emissions to be achieved.
"CCS is not an add on option, it is an essential part of a long term, low carbon electricity generation policy."Major overhaul
Dr Sam Gardner of the environmental organisation WWF Scotland said: "The only way that this plant can operate and ensure that we hit our climate change targets is for it to be reliant on carbon capture and storage working.
"We know that Longannet has a history of trying to pursue CCS, but we haven't seen it proven commercially.
"To base our energy policy on an assumption that some new technology will come to fruition and work is wishful thinking at very best."
Longannet began operating in 1973. It is in the midst of a major overhaul, designed to improve its efficiency and environmental performance.
- The power station first opened in 1969 and became fully operational from 1973
- Longannet operates four 600MW turbines
- It has a net output of 2,304MW of electricity - enough to power two million UK homes
- Longannet is the second largest coal power station in the UK, and the third largest in Europe
Neil Clitheroe, CEO of Scottish Power Retail and Generation, said Longannet - the largest power station in Scotland - continued to play a "pivotal role" in producing electricity supplies for millions of homes and businesses.
"The work over the summer this year will help the station to remain an important part of Scotland's energy mix", he added.
"Beyond our investment in the station's maintenance, we have also heavily invested in its environmental performance in recent years, meaning that the station will operate efficiently for many years to come."
Patrick Harvie MSP, the co-convener of the Scottish Greens, accused the Scottish government of playing "fast and loose" with the carbon reduction targets agreed by the Scottish Parliament.
He added: "To hear the energy minister saying he'd like us to still be digging up coal and burning it at Longannet more than a decade from now is deeply worrying.
"Instead of betting the farm on the theory of carbon capture and storage the government should be investing in public and community-owned renewables, and energy efficient housing and transport.
"We should be making inroads into our carbon footprint right now, rather than risking greater problems for the next generation."