Mr O'Brien is quoted as saying: “It is essential to replace older polluting power stations that are reaching the end of their lives with new stations that operate more efficiently."
What is clear is a shift of emphasis by the government, who while being aware of the anthropogenic carbon/greenhouse effect/global warming/climate change theories, are also well informed that the U.K. has an energy supply problem, to put it mildly. Hence avoiding people freezing in the winter and keeping the lights on in general here, is of more immediate concern than GW, the connection of which to wholesale climate change is a matter of model and debate. Thus, coal appears as a useful indigenous fuel, especially as we are running out of our other indigenous fuels - gas and oil, from North Sea fields that are likely to be almost dry in 6 years time.
How much accessible coal we have depends on how it is accounted, but there is enough for some decades in all likelihood, and much longer if underground coal gasification (UCG) is implemented on a grand scale. Uzbekistan has been running a UCG plant since the 1940's. Indeed, the National Coal Board ran an experimental UCG plant in Derbyshire in the 1950's but rejected the technology on the grounds it was too expensive compared to cheap solid coal that we were still producing to the tune of around 150 million tonnes/year.
The Hatfield plant is not a standard coal-fired power plant, which simply burns finely powdered coal, but rather uses coal that has been gasified, and it is the gas that is burned. It is termed a Combined Cycle plant and it was approved along with two more, one at Pembroke in South Wales (2 GW) and another at Kings Lynn in Norfolk (1 GW). Powerfuel, the company which bought the Hatfield colliery in 2006 plans to construct the "world's first large scale integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), near zero carbon emissions powers station with carbon capture capability." The grand total of 4 GW worth of electricity from the three new power stations is enough to power 4 million homes.
Their intention is to do this in two stages: first an 800 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant will be fabricated which burns coal that has been gasified into "syngas" (a mixture of CO + H2), and then this will be "upgraded" to an IGCC facility of 900 MW capacity running on coal from the Hatfield colliery. Richard Budge, CEO of Powerfuel, stressed the advantages of having a power producing facility in the north of England that runs on a secure fuel source based in the U.K. - i.e. coal. The first stage at Hatfield is expected to cost around £900 million and the second around £1 billion.
The initial CCGT station will employ gas turbines provided by General Electric, which are proven in their purpose, and it is planned that its construction will start in 2009 and finish in 2012, by when a connection to the national grid will have been implemented. The stage-two gasification technology is licensed from Shell and will capture 90% of the carbon emissions so that the fuel will be essentially hydrogen.
That carbon then has to be "removed for sequestration", i.e. put somewhere safe for hundreds to thousands of years, usually in rock-formations. Where, I wonder? Or, perhaps feed it to algae and turn it into liquid fuels? In that latter case, the carbon would end up in the atmosphere when the fuel was burned but it might be argued that there would be a trade-off against the oil that would otherwise be used as a fuel instead.
 "Green Light for 900MW carbon capture coal plant in Yorkshire." http://newenergyfocus.com/do/ecco.py/view_item?listid=1&listcatid=32&listitemid=2223§ion=Carbon
 "First 'clean coal' power station gets go-ahead," by Robin Pagnamenta: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article5670940.ece