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Without carbon capture support, polluting industries may have to close

Image credit: DT

Heavy industries in the UK could be forced to close in the future unless the Government acts fast to embrace carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) technology, a group of MPs have warned.

In a report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said that many of the more polluting industries would need to close under the Climate Change Act, which mandates that the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases for the year 2050 must be at least 80 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline.

The report also finds that without CCUS, the cost of meeting the climate obligations would double from approximately 1 to 2 per cent of GDP per annum in 2050.

The UK would also not be able to “credibly” claim that it is heading towards a “net zero emissions” target as agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

MPs accused the government of a “lack of clarity” in deploying the technologies, as well as the cost reductions it is demanding before offering support.

This “lack of enthusiasm” is symptomatic of the turbulent history of CCUS in the UK and the lack of policy support for the technology, despite a decade of increasingly urgent calls from official bodies and parliamentary inquiries to bring forward its deployment, said the report.

In February 2019, Drax Power Station said it had become the first to use carbon capture technology on burning wood pellets during tests of the technology. The facility had previously intended to launch a permanent carbon capture unit in 2014 before cancelling the initiative due to falling financial support from the British government.

A first CCUS demonstration competition was launched in 2007 and was followed in 2009 by a commitment to support up to four CCUS demonstrations over the following decade, but in 2011 the first one was cancelled because it could not be funded within the £1bn budget agreed, said the report.

A second £1bn competition was launched in 2012 but cancelled in 2016 due to concerns about the future costs for consumers.

In 2017, it emerged that these failed competitions cost the taxpayers approximately £168m due to the Government’s inability to agree on terms.

Committee member Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, said: “The UK has an opportunity to lead the world in the development of a new CCUS industry.

“In addition to helping to tackle UK carbon emissions, CCUS can play a crucial role in delivering much-needed investment in skills and infrastructure and supporting regional growth and jobs.

“The current energy minister has been a champion for CCUS and there have been some encouraging recent developments, but the CCUS industry has been the victim of years of turbulent policy support and suffered a series of false dawns.

“The Government now needs to give the green-light to CCUS and ensure that we seize the domestic growth and jobs opportunities of this modern, green industry.

“CCUS is crucial to meeting the UK’s climate change targets and will be vital to achieving a net zero target, but Government support is needed to make CCUS a reality.

“Without CCUS many of our heavy industries could face closure. CCUS has a critical role to play in decarbonising our economy and modernising UK industry - the Government should now throw its full support behind CCUS and put the right policy levers in place to ensure that this technology can deliver on its potential.”

Energy UK’s chief executive Lawrence Slade said: “Energy UK is a member of the CCUS Council and our members are already deploying pilot schemes, but while there is growing recognition from government of the importance of CCUS, a full commitment is necessary to bring forward the substantial and long-term investment that will enable it and allow CCUS to play a crucial role in the future energy system.

“As we’ve seen with renewables like offshore wind, becoming a world leader in new technologies can bring economic benefits to the UK through jobs, investment and exports - at the same time as innovation and growing expertise drive down costs.”

A Business Department spokesman said: “We are pleased that the committee shares our belief that CCUS can play an important role in meeting our climate targets.

“That is why through our Industrial Strategy we are investing over £50m in developing this innovative technology and a further £170m towards our mission to fully decarbonise an industrial cluster by 2040, where CCUS will play a key role.”

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