New CCS competition is much, much better
The new CCS competition offer looks set to deliver genuine energy results this time round, maybe even prompting the development of two or three working plants in sharp contrast to the disappointment which followed the collapse of the Longannet scheme in November last year.
"This is a much, much better offer than we had before," said Stuart Haszeldine, Scottish Power Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh.
"The competition this time has been opened up to all technologies with results being judged on price and reliability. The injection of additional R&D funding will also help while the EMR process means that green electricity from sources like this will attract an extra price premium."
Longannet failed because the Government found the £1.3bn price tag too expensive. The approach this time round will allow premium green electricity prices, paid for up to 15 or 20 years, to cover the 'mortgage payments' on the investment itself. All in all, this looks to be a much sustainable proposition.
"It's an extremely positive move and a well thought out package," said Prof. Haszeldine. "Hopefully, as a result, we'll now get a working plant at last, which is the step forward we really need. In fact, we may even get two or three if the funding is right."
Although he believes the intended Longannet developers made a 'realistic offer' last year, Prof. Haszeldine thinks this week's new SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir beginning for CCS will produce cheaper and more reliable solutions.
In that context, he also sees the Government's £6.5bn a year estimate of potential benefit to the UK economy as 'definitely achievable'.
"It depends, of course, on how it all rolls out," he said. "To begin with, there is a range of ambition in the new CCS roadmap from 10 GWh to
30 GWh, plus competition on energy prices.
Final value to the economy will also depend on what happens concerning the creation of new nuclear power plants, especially with several nuclear new-build contenders having withdrawn in recent months. Ultimately, however, I think we've learned a lot from Longannet and are now ready to do it better."
Same old £1bn. SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir, however, was less enthusiastic about what he described as the Government's 'eternal CCS competition' policy.
"It's good that the £1bn is still on the CCS table but it's the same £1bn we had before," he said. "It's time for us to get on actually develop something. Personally, I hope that will the project in Peterhead, which is definitely back in the running."