Labour has unveiled plans to give the new offshore industry regulator enhanced powers to ensure the UK can cash-in on the clean energy revolution.
A new blueprint for driving forward carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology proposes giving extra responsibilities to the Aberdeen-based agency and the Green Investment Bank.
It also suggested that public funding could be used to build new North Sea pipelines to transport the carbon emissions for storage.
Experts have predicted that a quarter of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions could be stored in depleted North Sea oil and gas reservoirs by 2050, potentially opening up a lucrative market for the north-east as the UK’s fossil fuel industries decline.
Advanced designs are being drawn up to build the world’s first commercial-scale gas CCS scheme at Peterhead Power Station, with the Shell-led scheme poised to win a slice of a £1billion UK Government development fund.
However, Labour has criticised the Westminster coalition over delays to the development of CCS, and has now published a new position paper of the topic.
As the party draws up plans for its manifesto, it has proposed making CCS a “core priority” for the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank.
It also suggests ordering the new North Sea regulator, being created in the wake of the landmark Wood Review into the future of the offshore sector, to co-ordinate work to maximise the North Sea’s storage potential and to facilitate CCS projects.
Meanwhile, money remaining in the £1billion fund could be used to build pipelines to transport the CO2 for storage in the North Sea.
Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex will unveil the paper at a meeting with members of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association today.
He said: “The next Labour government will bring in bold reforms to rebalance our economy.
“At the centre of this process will be our plans for decentralisation, for new infrastructure and for decarbonisation. Carbon capture and storage has a crucial role to play in that context.
“Under the last Labour Government, the UK led the world on CCS development. Now much of that progress has been squandered by a coalition whose attitude has been typified by dithering and delay.
“This paper is the first step in getting the UK’s CCS industry back on track.”