British Gas produces most nuclear waste, Powergen most CO2

Terry Macalister, October 5 2005, The Guardian

British Gas is responsible for creating more nuclear waste than any other energy supplier while Powergen is the worst for climate-changing CO2 emissions, new figures show. Centrica-owned British Gas comes out as the biggest producer of radioactive waste because it relies on British Energy's nuclear plants to generate 16% of its electricity - more than any other firm.

The statistics are released this week to coincide with new European rules demanding that power companies tell their customers how they generate their electricity. The companies have 12 months to publish the information on their bills or their corporate websites, but the new numbers were compiled immediately by energy information service Green Electricity Marketplace from data provided by the firms themselves.

Friends of the Earth is urging consumers to "start pulling the plug" on those companies that rely most heavily on nuclear or fossil fuel sources. "Consumers wanting clean energy should stop propping up polluting power companies, vote with their purses and switch suppliers. Telling power companies why you are switching will stimulate demand for less polluting alternatives," said FoE chief executive Duncan McLaren.

But the green group is also sceptical about some of the figures. "Despite the fact that half of Scotland's and 21% of Britain's electricity is generated by nuclear, none of the companies admits to using anywhere near these amounts. "British Gas, a market leader with 17 million gas and electricity customers, produces 1,870 micrograms of nuclear waste per kilowatt hour (a microgram is a millionth of a gram). EDF Energy produces 1,700.

Npower, owned by the German group RWE, produces only 1,000 micrograms, as does Powergen, owned by E.ON. British Gas has a much better record on greenhouse gas emissions, with 368g of CO2 per kilowatt hour - less than any of its main rivals, such as Powergen with 642g and npower with 558g. British Gas confirmed the figures but said the energy mix constantly changed. "We recently made a commitment to invest £750m in renewables.

We have just completed our first wind farm in Scotland and have plans for six more." said a spokeswoman. An E.ON spokeswoman also confirmed the statistics: "It's not surprising our carbon figures are high given we are the largest user of non-nuclear generation. We are investing heavily in green power, with 20 operational wind farms." The figures also show how hugely reliant British power companies are on coal, which is used to generate about half of the electricity used by ScottishPower, EDF, npower and Powergen.

Scottish & Southern Power derives 7.5% of its energy from renewable sources. The relatively tiny firm Good Energy derives 100% of its power from green sources.

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