Dash for gas will bust carbon budget

14th September 2012

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  • Generation ,
  • Conventional



The UK will not meet its legally-binding CO2 reduction targets if gas plays a central role in electricity generation past 2030, the climate change committee (CCC) has warned DECC

In an open letter to energy secretary Ed Davey, Lord Deben, the newly appointed chair of the CCC, took the government to task over a statement in July that said it saw gas as playing an “important role” in the UK’s energy mix beyond 2030, not simply limited to backing up renewable energy.

The CCC, however, warns that without carbon capture and storage (CCS), using gas to power a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity in the long-term was “incompatible” with meeting the country’s carbon budgets.

Supporting gas-fired generation beyond 2030 will undermine the investment needed in the next two decades in low-carbon and renewable energy to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply, says to the committee. Without early investment in such technologies the country will not be able to increase low-carbon energy capacity to the levels required to reduce emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

“Unabated gas-fired generation could therefore not form the basis for government policy, given the need under the Climate Change Act to set polices to meet carbon budgets and the 2050 targets,” states the letter.

Analysis by the CCC, also predicts that, with gas prices forecast to rise and the costs associated with low-carbon technologies expected to decline, power generated by unabated gas could cost more than that generated by offshore wind farms by 2035.

The CCC calls on the government to follow the advice of the energy and climate change select committee and introduce new legislation alongside the Energy Bill limiting the carbon intensity of power generation to 50g of CO2 per kWh of electricity by 2030.

“This is a low-regrets strategy. One that would help to improve the investment climate for low-carbon technologies, given mixed messages from the government about its intentions for the power sector, which signal a 2030 carbon intensity of anything from 50g to 200+ gCO2/kWh.”
Davey responded to the CCC’s letter, confirming that the government was considering an electricity decarbonisation target, but that electricity market reform would create significant decarbonisation without such a specific target.

He went on to reiterate the government’s view that gas was important in the government’s strategy to meet the carbon budgets, particularly in transitioning to a low-carbon electricity supply.

“We need to build a diverse mix of all the technologies to keep the lights on and lower our emissions [and] we have always said this will include gas fired plant, which is quick to build and flexible,” he said.

However, in a seeming contradiction to the July statement, he said: “After 2030 we expect that gas will only be used as back up, or fitted with CCS technology.”
The CCC’s letter was welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) as highlighting the reasons why investor confidence is struggling.

“The government needs to provide consistent political support and a stable investment climate if it is to achieve its decarbonisation objectives,” commented Gaynor Hartnell, the REA’s chief executive.

“Gas can be a friend of renewables, if used strategically to support the transition to a low-carbon future. That is the approach we would like to see in DECC’s forthcoming gas strategy.”


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