No justification for delay on CCS, panel concludes

12th September 2016

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  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Conventional


Christopher Naick

The government's failure to put in place effective policy on carbon capture and storage (CCS) will result in heavy costs for current and future UK consumers, an expert panel has concluded.

Former energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the joint industry and parliamentary inquiry after the government’s decision last November to axe funding for its CCS competition.

The study revealed that the high costs experienced by earlier approaches in the UK to develop CCS reflected the design of the competitions rather than the cost of CCS itself. It concluded that CCS has the potential to safely store 15% of current UK CO2 emissions by 2030 and up to 40% by 2050.

The panel recommended that a dedicated delivery company be established to ensure that CCS is delivered at least cost. This should be initially government-owned but could eventually be privatised.

Industrial emitters should be given incentives funded by the government to collect their CO2 and pay the delivery company to receive it from them under capture contracts.

Lord Oxburgh, a former chair of Shell who headed the panel, said the finding that CCS had an ‘absolutely central role’ in delivering emissions reductions at the lower possible cost to the UK consumer had surprised him.

In the forward of the panel’s report, he wrote: ‘I began this study, as I know a number of my colleagues did, quite prepared to advise you [the government] to write-off CCS as a part of UK energy policy. As you will see, our report recommends the opposite of this.’

The report’s findings echo those of numerous other bodies including the Committee on Climate Change, the Energy Technologies Institute and the Green Alliance.

Claire Jackobsson, head of energy and climate policy at manufacturers’ association EEF, said: ‘Once again we have a report indicating that CCS technology offers the most cost-effective decarbonisation route for the UK, that CCS fitted power plants could easily be cost competitive with established forms of low carbon power and, crucially, that there are no technological barriers to rapid deployment.

‘The report confirms what many in industry have been saying for years; CCS provides the only route to decarbonisation for many industrial processes,’ she said.

She welcomed the report’s recognition of the financial barriers to CCS deployment at steel, cement and chemical plants, and the proposed solutions.

Phil MacDonald, head of industrial decarbonisation at think tank Sandbag, said: ‘CCS technology is both essential in the short term for cost-effective emissions cuts from the power system; essential for restoring Britain’s industrial base; and essential for the removal of atmospheric greenhouse gases needed to keep the world to no more than 1.5°C of warming, as agreed in Paris.’

The Oxburgh report was a ‘significant step’ towards new government policy, he said. However, it lacks many details and it is vital that the government responds by setting out concrete policy to deliver CCS at pace, he added.

In addition to Oxburgh, the panel comprised MPs Peter Aldous and Philip Boswell, former MEP Chris Davies, who acted as rapporteur for the EU’s CCS Directive, and James Smith, who chairs the Carbon Trust and the advisory board of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change.


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