UK lags US on uptake of carbon capture and storage

The UK could consider using existing legislation to press for the use of CCS in existing coal plants.

THE UK could accelerate the uptake of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology by following the US’s example, and push for its adoption in existing coal plants.

Obama’s decision in June to push through plans to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants seems a significant move for a country that generates around 40% of its electricity from coal. Commentators suggested it marked a turning point in how the country perceives the threat from climate change.
Writing on the blog of the Engo Network on CCS – which represents an alliance of CCS companies – Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, said Obama’s decision to follow through on the EPA’s proposals also suggests his administration believes the technology needed to abate these emissions – in other words, carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is ready to build and operate.
This is in sharp contrast to the UK, he said, where the civil service has achieved all the preparatory work in record time, yet the Government is playing a ‘go-slow’ game with its CCS commercialisation programme – and is yet to make any final investment decision on whether to back two full-chain CCS demonstration projects.
The EPA is setting a good example by using regulatory instruments to drive progress on CCS, and emissions reductions from existing power plants, he said. Here in the UK, the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS), legislated in the 2013 Energy Act, requires CCS on any new coal-fired power station. But the government has chosen not to apply EPS to existing coal power stations, or to emissions from existing and future gas-fired power generation. These new US rules show that emissions performance standards can drive change on existing sources of emissions in the coming years. The UK could consider using its existing EPS law, in order to greatly accelerate progress on the large-scale deployment of CCS technology.
He said: “At SCCS, we continue to point out that the two UK demonstration projects for CCS – even if they secure the necessary funding from HM Treasury to place the first spade in the ground – are still not enough to allow the UK to meet its carbon targets in the most cost-effective way.” He continued: “The UK must begin building at least 30 more such projects by 2025 to avoid incurring extra costs later. By doing so, alongside developing a sizeable CO2 storage asset, the UK can future-proof itself against the 100% certainty of carbon taxes and global change.”
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