The EU and the Swiss government are giving about Ecu8m for research aimed at achieving a 17% increase in the energy efficiency of large coal-fired power stations, EU energy commissioner Christos Papoutsis announced last week. Speaking at a conference, Mr Papoutsis said that advanced steam management could enable coal power stations to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 15%. Coal was likely to maintain an important place in EU electricity generation, the commissioner stressed, and increasing power station efficiency could therefore play an important role in cutting Europe's greenhouse gas emissions. The technology, which is unlikely to be practically applied for at least another decade, involves newly developed nickel-based alloys that enable steam temperatures to be raised from a current ceiling of under 600 degrees centigrade to 700 degrees. The "advanced ultra supercritical steam project" is also being supported by a coalition of 40 energy companies from 11 countries. It has a total budget of Ecu21m and aims to build a demonstration plant within ten years. While the project's initial focus is on plants burning hard coal, the technology is expected to be adaptable for use with lignite and for co-combustion of coal with biomass or other fuels. The technology should also prove an economic boon for EU firms, the Commissioner said, holding the prospect of large-scale exports to countries with coal-fired power stations.
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