UK climate targets at risk unless ‘immediate action’ taken to develop CCS

The UK Government must take "immediate action" to boost the development of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology in order to reduce the cost of meeting Britain's climate change obligations by up to £5bn each year, according to a report by the Parliamentary Advisory Group.

The Advisory Group – consisting of MPs and experts from finance and industry – has set out a six-point plan to free the “logjam” that has blocked the technology’s development, including the rapid creation of a new delivery body to provide CO2-free electricity from fossil fuel power stations, and a CO2 pipeline network to provide the means of reducing emissions from industrial sources.

“Britain can show global leadership in tackling the problem of global warming by deploying CCS and exploiting our natural advantages to the full,” the Advisory Group chairman Lord Oxburgh said. “We can dramatically reduce our CO2 emissions, create tens of thousands of jobs, and give our domestic industry a great stimulus by making use of technologies which are now well understood and fully proven.

“Government and energy investors should be aware that the UK’s legally-binding commitment to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 will be at risk unless new gas fired power stations are CCS-equipped within their operating lifetimes.”

CCS Delivery Company

The Advisory Group claims that CCS technology is now ready to deploy at costs of £85/MWh over a 15-year period, significantly below the requirements for nuclear power and comparable to many renewable options.

The price is half the amount that would have been needed to support the projects bidding in the CCS Competition that was cancelled by the Government last November on the grounds of excessive cost. The Advisory Group accepts the Government’s justification that the project costs were too high, but insists that this was due to the design of the competition.

It proposes a new publicly-owned CCS Delivery Company, similar in concept to the Olympics Delivery Authority or Crossrail, to kick-start the technology’s implementation. Lord Oxburgh’s report also calls for financial measures to support CCS based on the Government’s existing Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme offered to renewable electricity providers.

‘On the money’

Through public sector support, CCS could be responsible for curbing as much as 40% of emissions, saving up to £5bn annually compared to alternative strategies by 2050, the report suggests.

This follows on from the National Audit Committee’s (NAC) recent report which suggested that the cancellation of the CCS competition could cost the UK an additional £30bn to meet its 2050 carbon targets. Only today, the Aldersgate Group highlighted that thousands of jobs would be created through CCS ‘hubs’, giving a huge boost to the economic regeneration of some of Britain’s oldest industrial centres in the North East and Scotland.

The report will come as welcome news to the green business community, which recently told edie it hoped that Lord Oxburgh’s report would provide a starting point for “renewed leadership” on the technology.

Commenting on the report’s findings, the manufacturers’ organisation EEF’s head of energy and climate policy Claire Jakobsson said: “This report is on the money and it is imperative that the Government takes its findings and recommendations seriously. Once again we have a report indicating that CCS technology offers the most cost-effective decarbonisation route for the UK, that CCS fitted power plants could easily be cost competitive with established forms of low carbon power and, crucially, that there are no technological barriers to rapid deployment.

“Uncertainty about the future direction of energy and decarbonisation policy is rife. The Government needs to end this and spell out its proposed strategy in fairly short order. This report must now help shape Government thinking and we hope to see the impact of its recommendations on future policy formation.” 

George Ogleby

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