EU could force carbon capture and storage

The European Union is set to consider plans to make carbon capture and storage mandatory for new coal fired power stations in an effort to significantly reduce the emissions of the energy sector.

With the stick is likely to come a carrot, however, with early adopters possibly picking up bonus credits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Several months ago EU leaders promised a dozen large demonstration projects but so far no firm proposals have been put forward for a single commercial-scale CCS coal power station.

Chris Davies, Lib Dem MEP for the North West, is rapporteur for the directive on the geological storage of carbon and is seeking support for proposals which would mean an end to coal-fired power plants which do not capture at least 90% of their carbon emissions.

Mr Davies sees himself as a political realist and says new coal plants are inevitable – so we need to make them as clean as possible.

To highlight the scale of the problem, he said the proposed Kingsnorth power station – which will not be fitted with CCS – would emit 8 million tonnes of carbon per year while the wind-generated electricity in the UK currently saves us 5.5 million tonnes of carbon.

Under his proposals, which with favourable political winds could be on the statute books by next year, all new fossil fuel plants would need to be CCS ready with storage sites identified along with a means of getting the gas to them.

From 2015 national governments would refuse to grant permission for new plants which did not capture at least 90% of their CO2 emissions and existing plants would need to be retro-fitted by 2025.

To soften the financial blow, energy companies which are quick off the mark could score twice under the ETS, as they would not have to pay for carbon allowances for CCS-fitted plants and would receive bonus credit notes for each tonne of carbon stored.

“Coal is responsible for 24% of Europe’s CO2 emissions and 50 new power plants are due to be built in the next five years,” said Mr Davies.

“The world’s demand for electricity requires the use of coal but to allow the construction of hundreds more dirty power plants makes a nonsense of all other strategies to reduce emissions.”

He denied that making CCS more attractive to power companies could create a dip in investment in renewables, saying the world needed both.

Sam Bond

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