Carbon capture: Budget rupture?
Imagine the outcry if Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review somehow led to the cancellation of support for renewable power generation through the Renewables Obligation. Yet some press reports have said that the CSR may lead to the four Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects which are part of the Coalition agreement to be delayed.
Applying CCS to both coal and gas power plants is essential alongside renewables and new civil nuclear power if we are to meet our climate targets and show other countries how they can, too. It has been estimated that it would cost 70% more to meet emissions reduction targets without CCS.
And CCS is also absolutely necessary for those energy-intensive industries, like steel, cement, glass and refining which cannot avoid producing carbon dioxide. In the Aire valley, Yorkshire, a CCS network could capture 60 million tonnes of CO2 from a range of industrial and power emitters. CCS is comparable in cost with other low carbon electricity options and needs no more subsidy than wind generation. And CCS on biomass offers a negative carbon opportunity.
If the UK CCS projects go ahead, supported by the levy on electricity which was enacted with all-Party support in the last Parliament, and if they use UK technology, then this country can lead the world in CCS and generate more than a hundred thousand quality jobs through domestic projects and exports (based on a 10% share of the global market).
If they do not go ahead as planned the message to the world will be that the UK wants to talk about climate change but not do anything about it. If they do not go ahead we will turn our backs on perhaps £1bn of European funding earmarked for CCS, and on an industrial opportunity for which the UK through its excellent research base, engineering capacity and lead on developing CCS regulation is very well placed.