Carbon capture in the UK has been hung out to dry by the Cameron Government via some chancellor’s Autumn Statement fine print issued by the Department of Energy & Climate Change.
Cancellation of the competition that had spurred the Peterhead and Yorkshire CCS projects and offered hope of possible retrofit of carbon capture technology to some coal-fired power stations has provoked a collection of angry responses.
I can imagine that the talented team at Shell who have been driving the Peterhead project will be spitting blood as the cancellation surely casts doubt over any further progress.
And it has happened just days ahead of the COP21 global climate convention.
At least one expert in the CCS sphere, Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University was initially mislead over the Tory government’s commitment to energy research.
He had thought that support for low carbon energy research was being stepped up, but the truth came out via a two-line statement issued by DECC to the London Stock Exchange.
It said: “Today; following the chancellor’s Autumn Statement, HM Government confirms that the £1billion ring-fenced capital budget for the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Competition is no longer available.
“This decision means that the CCS Competition cannot proceed on its current basis. We will engage closely with the bidders on the implications of this decision for them.”
The news was not mentioned in chancellor Osborne’s speech or the Treasury’s Spending Review document. This was weasel tactics.
When the ugly truth became apparent, Haszeldine, who is also SCCS director at Edinburgh, issued a statement.
He says: “It has now become clear that announcements made by Chancellor George Osborne regarding energy innovation and support for low-carbon electricity were economical with the facts about support for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the UK.
“A focus on CCS research and development is not enough to deploy this essential climate change technology – project developers and others in the CCS community are united in their stance that large-scale projects are needed on the ground.
“Multiple analyses have demonstrated that this is a feasible and cost-effective method to decarbonise not just UK electricity, but also heat and industry, whilst driving improved efficiency.”
The long-running CCS Commercialisation Competition had as bait, up to £1billiion of capital to support the design, construction and operation of the UK’s first commercial-scale CCS projects.
There had been rumours circulating that things might be scaled back. But the impact of the news via DECC can surely be only drastic.
Dr Luke Warren, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association views the news as “devastating”.
“Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1bn of funding for CCS,” he says in a statement. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”
The Tory manifesto leading up to the general election had praised the Tory-Lib-Dem coalition for “committing £1billion for carbon capture and storage”.
Warren adds: “Without concrete government support for CCS the UK will lose the opportunity for cost-effective decarbonisation.”
In a nutshell, the Tories have cavalierly screwed CCS in the UK in the same way that they have stuffed onshore solar, onshore wind and community projects by pulling subsidies.
But there’s more. Energy efficiency has also taken a hit.
Osborne failed to announce support for energy efficiency in infrastructure budgets and he instead put forward plans for significant cuts to existing funding through the Energy Company Obligation and the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Stupidity or what?