With Ed Miliband’s statement today on carbon capture, energy developers must now be a lot clearer on what is expected from them. In exchange for funding, they’ll have to fit carbon capture to a timetable, and preferably in clusters of projects offering regional economies of scale. And thousands of green jobs should follow.Miliband said, “Every coal-fired power station built from now would have to commit to retrofitting CCS on the whole plant, 100%, within five years of 2020, subject to the technology being ready. It would also mean, once the technology has been judged as proven, every new coal-fired power station would have to commit to CCS not just on a portion but on the whole plant.”
There’s still going to be a consultation paper in June, so time once again is not on our side. He’ll be seeking views on, “whether we need a safety net in the eventuality that it does not become proven as quickly as we expect. And we will also consult on whether it is possible through an emissions performance standard to implement the conditions I have outlined.”
One of the frustrations for government over Kingsnorth is, of course, that all new plant – like Kingsnorth – will be covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Coal, gas, cement making or aluminium plant already have to buy new carbon permits. Under the EU emissions trading scheme, they are capped and falling.
Nevertheless, this is a welcome announcement. With the promise to identify a funding mechanism for up to four CCS demonstration plants (a levy plus EU funding) this finally puts serious money and political will behind clean coal.
Where it really gets interesting is in Miliband’s bigger ambition for a National Grid for CCS. He wants to encourage clusters of CCS infrastructure in key regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber, the Thames Estuary, the Firth of Forth and Tyne/Tees, bringing major employment and regeneration benefits.
The TUC and our affiliates have been strong advocates of the Yorkshire Forward scheme. Bit of a no-brainer in its own way. The Aire Valley region emits 80 million tonnes of CO2 a year, two-thirds from a cluster of 13 large emitters (coal, steel and chemical plants mainly). Together they provide employment (direct and indirect) for around 10,000 mainly high quality, unionised skilled and semi-skilled workers organised mainly within Unite, Prospect, GMB, Community and Unison. It is the largest CO2 cluster in Europe.
This move will be something of a challenge to the recent Conservatives call by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne for at least three UK CCS demonstration projects .