Lack of awareness ‘undermining’ CCS use for tackling carbon emissions

A lack of public awareness about carbon capture and storage (CCS) is threatening to undermine the UK's efforts to use the new technology for cutting carbon emissions, a new leading academic survey has found.

The survey, conducted by Cambridge University on behalf of the UK CCS Research Centre, was the first of its kind in the UK to compare attitudes on fracking and CCS.

It suggests that more than 40% of people have never heard of CCS – the process where carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is trapped and then buried underground. Support for using CCS with coal-fired electricity generation has also waned, dropping to 28% this year from 41% in 2013.

Furthermore, less than 2% of respondents could name any aspect of the new £1bn taxpayer-funded CCS demonstration projects.

Value for money

Dr David Reiner of the Energy Policy Research Group at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge – who led the study – said that despite the Government’s large investment in CCS, public support for the new technology has declined over the past year.

He said: “As we seek to meet challenging longer-term carbon targets and build a low-carbon energy system, the public will be demanding value for money given the large sums involved. The UK Government has ring-fenced £1bn of public funds for capital construction of CCS demonstration projects and will be committing many millions more within the next year to support operating costs.

“Yet, despite CCS featuring regularly in the media, awareness of its role or progress remains very low amongst the public and, unsurprisingly, support for CCS remains tepid and has actually declined over the past year.”

Fracking awareness

In May, the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) called for the CCS demonstration projects to be fast-tracked. In contrast, only 5% of those surveyed have never heard about fracking, compared to 22% a year ago.

The survey, which used data collected from more than 2,000 respondents by polling firm YouGov, found that as awareness of fracking has increased, so has opposition to the controversial new technology, with 34% of people against the idea, up from 26% last year.

However, support for fracking is also on the rise, with 31% of respondents in favour of it, compared to 24% a year ago.

Dr Reiner will discuss the results of the survey at the British Science Festival in Birmingham tomorrow (7 September). The findings of the study will then be published as an Electricity Policy Research Group (EPRG) working paper.

Edie timeline: CCS 

Apr 2012: CCS ‘competition’ opened
July 2012: ‘Competition’ bidding closed
March 2013: Government announces two preferred bidders – the White Rose Project (Yorkshire) and the Peterhead Project
February 2014: A new technology strategy aimed at turning CCS into a mainstream carbon abatement technology was launched
February 2014: The Government announced a major investment in the world’s first gas-fired CCS facility to be constructed in Peterhead
May 2014: A new report argued that CCS has become ‘vital’ to limiting climate change and the technology must be fast-tracked for use in UK power stations within the next 12 months
August 2014: The Government reaffirmed its commitment to establishing a strong CCS industry in the UK with a scoping document.
Late 2015: Companies to take final investment decisions on the CCS competition

edie staff

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