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UK leading the way on CCS policy

Date
02 September 2010
UK leading the way on CCS policy

By Nick Otter
CEO Global CCS Institute (GCCSI)
Op-ed, GCCSI August 2010 Newsletter

Britain has become the first major industrial economy to clearly specify that any new coal fired power station must incorporate CCS.

That announcement, from Energy Minister Charles Hendry, is a ringing endorsement of CCS as the technology most capable of making coal (still the world’s most abundant, technologically proven and economically attractive source of base-load energy) viable in an emissions-restricted environment.

The announcement came with the release of the UK Government’s first annual Energy Statement, issued by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (July 2010). The Minister said that while consultations on an emissions performance standard would begin in November, it was already clear that coal fired stations without CCS technology would not be acceptable.

The UK Government has already announced back in 2007 that it would seek submissions for a suitable project to receive pioneer public funding and talks with industry have been ongoing. It had been hoped that a ‘winner’ would be announced shortly but the Minister said no date had yet been set for this.

Despite this, there was important news in that the Government intends to provide funding support for three more CCS projects and that discussions on these will be completed by November 2011. This is a major development and shows that the commitment is clearly there to take forward CCS.

Fewer emissions, more electricity

The Energy Report confirmed Britain’s goal of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but Energy Secretary Chris Huhne made clear to Parliament that such extensive emissions cuts would not lead to lower electricity use. On the contrary, he suggested, emissions reduction might be achieved by replacing other forms of energy with electric power in transport, industry and heating. More, rather than less, electricity generation capacity was needed. In that context, the government’s encouragement of CCS is eminently strategic.

Mr Huhne also suggested that CCS might be kind to consumers: at an oil price above US$100 a barrel, electricity generated by a coal-CCS combination would be competitive and “consumers would save money,” he said.

It is clear that the UK Government sees CCS as a particularly practical tool in the fight against climate change. What is needed now is a speedy decision on funding support for demonstration plants, not just in the UK but wider. There is a clear urgent need for such plants worldwide to establish the full confidence and to take the lessons learned to help set the trajectory for the scale and magnitude necessary for CCS deployment globally.

A successful demonstration will do more than just provide industry with the practical knowledge of how CCS can be implemented; it will also go a long way to assuring the public that CCS does indeed offer them a realistic path to a low-emissions environment.

This sort of public assurance is much needed by governments everywhere as they grapple with the challenge of selling emissions reduction policies to an electorate nervous of the costs and consequences. The Institute is ready and willing to play its role in achieving this.

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