Policymakers: Carbon capture and storage delays could cost the UK £40 billion per year
- 23 Apr 2013, 12:30
- Mat Hope
The cost of decarbonising the UK's energy system
could double if the government fails to develop carbon capture and
storage (CCS) technology, according to a new
report. It suggests the future of the UK's fossil fuel
industry largely depends on the fate of the unproven
MPs and Peers representing parliament's three largest
parties launched the Carbon Connect report yesterday afternoon.
delays to bringing new nuclear power
online may mean prolonging the use of fossil fuel plants to ensure
the country has enough power.
But continuing to burn coal and gas in existing
plants makes it much more likely the UK would miss its
legally-binding target of reducing
emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. That's where CCS comes in - the
technology, which captures emissions
and stores them underground could reduce the amount of greenhouse
gases fossil fuel plants release into the atmosphere.
Speaking at the report's launch, Professor Jim Skea
of the Committee on Climate Change said this made CCS "absolutely
critical" to the UK's efforts to decarbonise its energy
Despite the optimistic talk, CCS has yet to prove
itself as a viable technology in the UK. The government's first
competition to fund projects
collapsed in 2011, and it is currently
reviewing the feasibility of two short-listed projects having
re-launched the competition last year - with a
final decision due in 2015.
These delays mean developing CCS quickly enough "is
going to be a real difficulty" for the government, according to the
co-chair of the Liberal Democrat's climate change committee, Lord
CCS is key to meeting government emission targets in
the cheapest way possible. According to the report, which is based
on calculations by the
Energy Technology Institute, failing to
develop CCS could cost the UK economy between £30 and £40 billion
each year by 2050 - about one per cent of GDP.
The report assumes the UK would meet its 80 per cent
emissions reduction target, and looks at alternative ways to do
this if there is no CCS. It shows a greater amount of costly
renewables like offshore wind would be needed as coal and gas could
hardly ever be used. Future industrial emissions would also be much
higher without CCS, further squeezing the amount of time fossil
fuel plants could be run.
Jonathan Holyoak, the Department of Energy and
Climate Change's Head of CCS and fossil fuel generation policy,
said this means there is simply "no long term future [for fossil
fuels] without carbon capture and storage".
Running out of time
Former energy minister Charles Hendry acknowledged
there is "no easy option" to put the UK on a low carbon path. And
Labour's shadow energy minister, Tom Greatex MP, criticised the
government for "grappling with debates" over the direction of
policy, rather than working out the details for the "broadly shared
goal" of decarbonising the UK's energy sector.
Time is running out. So if the government is going to
rely on CCS, Labour peer Baroness Worthington says it must now "get
on and prove it".