The UK government is putting climate targets at risk by pushing for more gas while scrapping support for carbon capture and storage (CCS), according to MPs.
A House of Commons Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee report says ending support for CCS seems to be in “direct contradiction” with the government’s renewed focus on gas. It adds that pursuing gas “cannot get the UK to its 2030 and 2050 carbon targets without CCS”.
Carbon Brief sums up the report, which echoes other recent findings on CCS and carbon budgets.
Dash for gas
Amber Rudd, the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change, has put heavy emphasis on securing new gas generation and a UK shale gas industry. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) expects 27 gigawatts (GW) of new gas capacity to be built over the next 20 years, against 32GW operating today.
In the short term, some new gas capacity will be needed to secure electricity supplies as the UK phases out coal, though there is disagreement over the quantity needed. Bizarrely, however, Rudd has referred to gas as “low carbon”, despite it being a fossil fuel.
The committee notes that each unit of electricity from gas emits 400 grammes of CO2, far above the 2030 target of 100gCO2/kWh recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). CCS is the “only practicable way to close this gap”, the MPs say.
Yet the government has recently pulled its £1bn CCS commercialisation scheme, a move the MPs call “disappointing”. This and other recent policy changes “are damaging investor confidence in the UK energy sector”, the committee adds.
Chris Littlecott, head of fossil fuel transition at thinktank E3G, says in a statement:
According to the MPs, the decision on CCS “seems to be in direct contradiction with the direction of energy policy”. The report says:
The UK now needs a clear CCS strategy, the MPs say, setting out when the government expects CCS to be deployed and in what quantity. The government should publish this by summer 2016, they add. Energy minister Andrea Leadsom recently rejected this idea, calling a CCS strategy “unnecessary”.
Angus MacNeil MP, chair of the ECC Committee, says in a statement:
Dr Luke Warren, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, says in a statement:
Need for CCS
The committee is far from alone on stressing the need for CCS. Successive governments have pursued CCS competitions, commercialisation schemes and projects for over a decade.
The Committee on Climate Change says CCS will be “vital” to meeting longer-term climate goals and that the alternatives would be “substantially more expensive”. Matthew Bell, the CCC’s chief executive, explained the reasons for this view in an in-depth interview with Carbon Brief last week.
Last September, an industry-backed report said CCS was “essential” for a climate-friendly UK shale gas industry and some estimates suggest decarbonising without CCS would be substantially more expensive.
Jim Watson, director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), says in a statement:
Watson told Carbon Brief last year:
Later this month, UKERC will publish a report on the future of gas in the UK. This spring, the CCC will report on whether a UK shale gas industry is compatible with legally-binding carbon targets.
The government’s enthusiasm for gas needs to be seen in the context of the December Paris climate agreement, which sets a net-zero global emissions goal for the second half of the century.
Prof Stuart Haszeldine, professor of CCS at the University of Edinburgh, says in a statement:
The UK also has its own, legally-binding climate target of an 80% cut on 1990 emissions by 2050.
The UK’s fifth carbon budget for 2028-2032 has to be set in law by the end of June. It would be hard to justify watering down the CCC’s recommended target, given its post-Paris advice that the suggested goal is a “minimum”.
A DECC spokesperson says in a statement:
What role does the government expect CCS to play in the UK’s approach to meeting those targets? We will have to wait and see.
Main image: Worker turning a valve of gas fired power station, 11 Feb 2015.
Gas without carbon capture puts UK climate goals at risk, say MPs #CCS
A House of Commons ECC Committee report says ending support for CCS seems to be in "direct contradiction" with the government's renewed focus on gas. Carbon Brief sums up the report.