Clean coal: Minister launches Active Energy Plan (A)
To the launch of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change (APPGCC), where Ed Miliband announced the details of his new coal consultation. Listening to the carefully worked out strategy, which even Greenpeace described as “promising” today, it all seems a long way from the policy doldrums of January ’09 when a true sense of inertia had set in, disgruntling the Coal Forum, NGOs and the TUC.
Based on an “active, strategic role for Government”, the Minister set out his Plan:
- A new requirement for any new coal power station (like Kingsnorth) to demonstrate CCS on at least 400MW of its capacity (ie around a third to a quarter).
- To reinforce this, new coal power stations should be required to retrofit 100% CCS to their full capacity within five years of CCS having been “independently judged economically and technically proven” (2020 is the likely date specified).
- Any further new coal power stations would have to install CCS technology on the full generating capacity from the outset.
- A levy on electricity suppliers should be used to fund the programme of CCS demonstrations. The average annual impact of the levy would be about 2% on domestic and industrial electricity bills.
And this is Plan B:
- A “contingency measure” will set out how emissions from coal power stations will be managed downwards within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme if CCS is not proven.
The new All-Party Group, co-chaired by Brian Binley MP and David Anderson MP, was delighted to have the Minister at their launch meeting. Industry representatives spoke of the positive reception in the business community. Progressive Energy queried why the focus was on rather small-scale demonstration projects, of about a quarter of a power station’s capacity (400MG)? There would be economies of scale in more ambitious projects. The CCS Association pushed the case for the development of carbon capture clusters in heavy industrial areas.
Clusters are part of the plan (Plan A, that is). The 4 coal power CCS projects will be used to kick-start clusters of CCS carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructures in heavy industry areas like the Aire valley, suited to the later retrofit with CCS. “If we are to see wide scale deployment of CCS on all installations with high carbon emissions in the UK – fossil fuel power stations and industrial units – massive investment will be needed in new infrastructure and technology innovation. We need to start preparations now for wider deployment,” the document says.
Low carbon coal technologies represent a major future market for UK business estimated to be worth of the order of £2-4bn to the UK by 2030, sustaining 30,000 – 60,000 jobs, according to a new study by AEA technology. But unemployment is now at its highest level since Autumn 1996. Youth unemployment is at its highest rate for 15 years. There really is no room for delay.
The TUC warmly welcomed the consultation. For now, though, just a few questions: The first project will be publicly funded, the rest by a levy on electricity prices. If CCS is so crucial, which it is, then why not apply the levy to all fossil fuels we use – gas, oil, petrol? Second, should the CCS pipeline and storage be commercially funded? Key infrastructure projects like the national grid or the motorway network were developed by the state in the national interest. And, with climate change posing fundamental challenges to the planet, surely there is no Plan B?
The TUC’s Clean Coal Task Group will be debating the consultation paper with Ministers on 2 July. Closing date for responses is 9 September.