It’s a technology that might be able to safely remove and store harmful carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations. According to some studies it could create 13,000 new jobs in Scotland by 2020.
However, some five years after the UK government first launched its £1 billion funding competition, aimed at helping kick-start the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, we are still no closer to seeing emissions reduced or jobs created.
Scotland is of course rich in renewable sources of energy and in the future, could have a secure electricity supply without any need for any fossil fuel power. However, with thousands of coal and gas power stations operating around the world already, CCS could play a significant role in cutting carbon emissions globally. Thus, as Scotland transitions to a 100 per cent renewable future, there is a case for a well-focused and cost-effective demonstration project here that delivers real emissions reductions.
Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife would have been the ideal location to test this technology on an existing power station. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, the idea was abandoned in late 2011.
Thankfully, Peterhead gas-fired power station is one of the four final entries left in the UK government’s competition. Unlike the other entries – which also include a proposal at Grangemouth – the Peterhead scheme would not require the building of a new power station.
It’s WWF’s view that failure by the UK government to award a significant slice of its fund to Peterhead early this year risks throwing away a valuable opportunity to test the technology at an existing power station while cutting the country’s overall emissions at the same time.
However, government dithering over which project to select as a winner is not the only reason why this technology may flounder.
If CCS is to be developed and be tested it needs a clear signal from both UK and Scottish Governments. Sadly, the proposed Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) – a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide a new power station can emit – in the UK Energy Bill going through Westminster right now does exactly the opposite. The limit being proposed is set so high that instead of helping to curb emissions it effectively gives a green light to unabated gas with no need for CCS until 2045.
And, while the Scottish Government has a welcome and strong commitment to a largely de-carbonised power sector by 2030, its current support for the proposed UK-wide emissions limit is in stark contradiction to this pledge. As control over emissions is a devolved matter, consenting to this UK proposal would lock us into high carbon generation for years to come, hampering Scotland’s ability to meet its emission reduction targets and doing nothing to encourage the development of a strong CCS industry in Scotland.
So, it’s decision time for politicians north and south of the border.
We urge the UK Government to quickly end the uncertainty and back Peterhead as the place to test CCS.
Meantime, while the Scottish Parliament scrutinises the Scottish Government’s approach to the UK Energy Bill, we urge Scottish Ministers to address the contradictions in their own position by demanding a lower emissions limit for the whole of the UK, or setting the right one for Scotland.
Taking these actions won’t solve all our climate change problems. However, without them we’re less lightly to remain on a path that would.
Do you want to see a tight limit of carbon pollution from power stations? Should there be any role for carbon capture storage? Feel free to add a comment below…