Environmentalists, energy firms and MPs came together this week in a rare display of unity to urge ministers to get on with funding carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
The cross-party House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee said the government should finish funding negotiations for two chosen pilot schemes by early next year.
It said CCS could be a “game changer” in the fight against global warming, but warned that the UK was wasting valuable time by delaying decisions for funding pilot schemes.
Support for development of CCS came from a diverse mix of interest groups. Energy Technologies Institute programme manager Andrew Green said making CCS work was vital for meeting carbon targets affordably.
“Our own research has found that the cost of meeting the UK’s low carbon targets could double to £60bn a year by 2050 at today’s prices without the use of CCS,” he said.
“Working from a robust evidence base, we hope that a clear policy framework can help to make the investment proposition for CCS attractive and begin to develop a momentum in this emerging industry, given the value it has the potential to deliver.”
Trade body Energy UK said: “CCS could play an important part of the future energy mix by providing a long term future for the role of coal and gas in the UK’s electricity generation mix while achieving our decarbonisation ambitions.
“Development of CCS also brings benefits to the UK economy in terms of jobs and investment.”
Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at wildlife conservation charity WWF-UK, said developing CCS projects was an urgent govern- ment priority.
“After years of unnecessary delay, getting on with the task of demonstrating the technical and commercial feasibility of CCS is an urgent priority for this government and the next.”
Research group Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage director Stuart Haszeldine said CCS was the key to a low carbon energy future.
“We all want a secure future, which includes low carbon energy. To avoid extra costs later, we must develop our CO2 storage now.
“That is a good insurance against the 100% certainty of future carbon taxes and future global change. Avoiding CCS investment may look cheap today, but is storing up high cost trouble for later.”
Funding applications from CCS pilot schemes at Peterhead in Scotland and Drax in Yorkshire were given preferred bidder status by the government in 2013. But there are signs that they could be waiting for funding confirmation until early 2016.
The select committee said the drawn-out competition for pilot scheme funding reflected badly on successive governments.
“To increase the chance that the first CCS project will be operational in the UK by 2020, the government should aim to reach final investment deci- sions with the two projects left in its competition by 2015.”
The committee also said viable projects not currently part of the government’s competition were at risk of collapsing.
“We recommend that as soon as the government sets out more detail on the nature of CCS contracts for differences, [it] should write to the non-competition projects inviting them to start the process of negotiating for contracts for difference,” says its report.
Energy minister Michael Fallon insisted the UK was still ahead of the rest of Europe in developing CCS facilities.
“As well as the £1bn we are investing in CCS, there will also be additional support through low carbon contracts for difference for a number of years to come, so it’s important we take the time to get our decisions right and follow a robust process,” he said.
“Our vision for CCS in the UK does not stop at these first projects. We want to see a strong and successful CCS industry able to compete on cost with other low carbon technologies in the 2020s.”