A group of MPs said today the UK couldn’t afford to sit back and wait for carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee warned in a report that without CCS the UK would not meet its binding climate targets at lowest cost.
It criticised the government’s decision to cancel a £1bn competition to develop CCS projects last year – and the way the decision was handled.
The committee’s chair, Angus MacNeil, said in a statement:
“If we don’t invest in the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage technology now, it could be much more expensive to meet our climate change targets in the future.”
CCS aims to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from industrial activities such as electricity generation. The CO2 would be stored deep underground, for example in old North Sea oil and gas wells. This process would, its supporters hope, allow the UK to continue generating power from gas, including shale, long into the future, while meeting carbon reduction targets.
Mr MacNeil said failure to deliver CCS technology could undermine the government’s plans to build a new fleet of gas power plants.
“Gas-fired power stations pump out less carbon dioxide than ones burning coal, but they are still too polluting.If the government is committed to the climate change pledges made in Paris, it cannot afford to sit back and simply wait and see if CCS will be deployed when it is needed. Getting the infrastructure in place takes time and the government needs to ensure that we can start fitting gas fired power stations with carbon capture and storage technology in the 2020s.”
According to the Committee’s report, gas-fired power stations currently produce an average of 400g of CO2 for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated. For the UK to meet its 2050 targets, the power sector overall needs to produce no more than 100g of CO2 per kWh by 2030, four times lower.
David Cameron told the House of Commons liaison committee in 2014that CCS was “absolutely crucial” if the UK was to “decarbonise effectively” and that government had to “put a lot money” into experiments.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee backed this view in its report:
“With gas and without CCS, we will not remain on the least cost path to our statutory decarbonisation target”.
The report called on DECC to publish a CCS strategy by the summer of 2016, outlining:
- The role CCS has in the long term, and whether this means the 2020s, 2030s or 2050s
- What plans there are for new gas fired power stations and how much generating capacity will be fitted or retrofitted with CCS.
The report was critical of the way DECC cancelled the competition. Companies involved in CCS only found out that the funding was to be withdrawn one hour before the public announcement.
Mr MacNeil said:
“The manner in which the government pulled the plug on the CCS commercialisation competition was hugely disappointing. UK companies had been working towards this for years and were only weeks away from final proposals. The first hint one company had about the decision was when they read a news report the night before. This is the latest in a series of snap decisions that have damaged confidence in the government’s energy policy.”
The report said:
DECC must now work to mend bridges and proactively engage with industry in a consultative way to discuss the next steps for businesses involved with the development of CCS in the UK, whether through workshops, meetings or consultations.
Pulling the plug at the last minute is likely to have led to the loss of significant amounts of foreign investment, which could have been retained if developers had had more warning of the decision.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said:
“We haven’t closed the door to CCS technology in the UK. However, CCS needs to come down in cost and we are considering the role that it could play in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK.”