Reuters have reported that a € 300 million grant has been awarded to Drax from the EU, which will be used to help the UK utility develop clean coal technologies.
Drax’s White Rose project will receive the cash as part of an EU scheme to fund renewable energy and other initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The project could become Europe’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility.
Drax has said it hopes to use the funds to build a 450 MW coal-fired power plant alongside its existing power plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.
The new plant would be capable of powering 630 000 homes in the UK, while some 1.8 million tpa of CO2 emissions from the facility would be captured and pumped into a depleted gas field in the North Sea.
"White Rose will create thousands of green, local jobs and make a real difference to cutting carbon emissions," British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement.
"And as a world leader in the technology, as carbon capture and storage is commercialised Britain will be in first place to export this knowledge to a decarbonising global economy."
EU Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said the 28-nation bloc would award a total € 1 billion to 19 projects in 12 member states, including a geothermal power plant in Croatia and a concentrated solar power project in Cyprus.
"With these first-of-a-kind projects, we will help protect the climate and make Europe less energy dependent," Hedegaard told reporters in Brussels, adding that the grant funding would leverage additional investment from the private sector of € 900 million.
"This is a contribution to reducing Europe's energy bill of more than € 1 billion/ day that we pay for our imported fossil fuels," she added.
Funds for the so-called NER300 programme were raised through the sale of 300 million carbon allowances under the EU's Emissions Trading System between 2011 and 2014 - a reserve of permits that had been set aside for new entrants in the scheme.
The Commission, the EU's executive arm, raised more than € 2 billion through this method.
No CCS plants received cash during the first round of NER300 funding because they all withdrew from the competition due to a lack of government support.
Drax won cash in the second round after the UK government announced £1 billion in support for CCS projects.
Graeme Sweeney, chairman of Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP), paid homage to the EU decision. He said that it sent a strong and positive signal that reaffirmed the importance of CCS deployment. “We must keep pushing European projects with the continued support both at EU and member state level," Sweeney said
Brussels-based ZEP is a coalition of European utilities, oil companies, scientists, academics and environmental campaigners working together to advance CCS technology.
Despite many extolled advantages of CCS, commercial scale development of any large projects has proved illusory, particularly in Europe.
When looking at transitioning to a low-carbon future, technology is perhaps the answer: investment in CCS and similar technologies is arguably vital in addressing climate change. This means conventional fossil fuel sources, such as coal, will remain integral to the shift towards a clean energy future. Instead of investing money in the methane-ridden gas industry, investment in clean coal technologies can provide the energy the world needs without the huge release of greenhouse gasses.
The clear example of a successful commercial-scale model CCS plant is SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project. The recently completed project is the world’s first commercial-scale post-combustion coal-fired CCS retrofit project. The project has transformed the aging Unit 3 at Boundary Dam power plant into a reliable, long-term producer of 110 MW of baseload electricity. It is set to capture 90% of emissions – equivalent to 1 million tpa of CO2 or taking more than 250 000 cars off Saskatchewan’s roads annually. The company is currently commissioning and testing all parts of the integrated carbon capture process before full commercial launch
The EU Commission said Drax's CCS project, which is expected to capture 90% of the new plant's emissions, will reduce greenhouse gases by an amount equivalent to taking more than a million cars off the road.
It added that the 19 projects selected in the latest round of NER300 funding could raise EU renewable energy production by around 8000 GWh, equal to the combined annual electricity consumption of Cyprus and Malta.
Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson