Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Tackling climate change through carbon capture

The last bit of the green energy package to be voted through the Environment Committee was a report drafted by the UK Lib Dem MEP, Chris Davies on the Commission’s plans for developing carbon capture technology and ensuring there is a legal framework for its proper and safe deployment.

The report adopted wants to see all new coal-fired power stations built from 2015 onwards to be equipped with the new carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). MEPs on the Environment Committee backed an amendment that introduces an “emission performance standard” which would require member states to set limits on the C02 performance of new power stations with a capacity of more than 300 Mega Watts. After 2015, the emissions of large power plants cannot exceed 500 Kg of CO2 per kilowatt hour (Kwh) on an annual average basis.

Any new coal plants must be built with environmental protection – that is fundamental.
New coal plants with carbon capture and storage facilities have the potential to make important emissions savings while providing a secure supply of energy. This is likely to be of significant benefit for Scotland, especially since Scotland is widely recognised as being among the countries best placed in the world to fully exploit the clean carbon potential of carbon capture schemes. The Longannet coal fired power station is already investing in cleaner carbon based technologies. Scottish power stations burning clean, 'green' coal would bring huge economic benefits to Scotland with the creation of more jobs in Scotland’s energy industry at the same time as greatly reducing emissions. Scotland has huge coal reserves which together with our renewables would help to meet Scotland’s electricity needs without the need for nuclear for many years to come.

The Commission plans to help Europe build up to 12 large scale demonstration carbon capture projects by 2015 and we certainly welcome EU support in this regard, not least after what happened with the carbon capture and storage project at the Peterhead power station where Scotland already had a world-leading proposal for a demonstrator site.

Because of political uncertainty caused entirely by the London Government not making it a priority and not giving it the backing it needed, the project did go ahead but instead of on our own doorstep in Scotland it went to California. This project was one of the most advanced of any in the EU and offered a real opportunity for not just Scotland and the UK but also the EU to lead the world in advancing and using this technology by 2010. While the European Commission supported it, once again London’s failure ensured Scotland lost out.

Of course a key issue was that of how to finance these demonstration projects with opinion divided over whether this should be for member states or private sector. In his draft opinion to the Environment Committee, the rapporteur Christian Ehler (German Christian Democrat MEP) for the Energy Committee wants to see CCS funded from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research and development as well as by allowances from the EU’s ETS. But to kick-start CCS during the initial planning and construction phases, funding needs to come before 2013 and this could be done by using 500 million euro from the Risk Sharing Finance Facility that was held back until the mid-term review of FP7. With co-financing by the European Investment Bank this could provide 1 billion euros. So again we have to wait and see what will come out of the ongoing negotiations between the parliament, the member states and the Commission before December.

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