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Cameron defends decision to scrap CCS funding

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World Coal,

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has defended last November’s decision to scrap £1 billion of funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) development saying that “the economics of carbon capture and storage really aren’t working at the moment”. Appearing before the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons, the prime minister faced criticism from SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil over the decision, which has been included in the Conservative manifesto before the General Election last year.

MacNeil, who chairs the Energy and Climate Change Committee, accused the prime minister of incoherence in energy policy after the Department of Energy and Climate Change had referenced the £1 billion funding for CCS in a submission to his committee only a month before it was withdrawn. “It looks as though one arm of Government doesn’t know what the other arm is doing,” MacNeil said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s claims that CCS wasn’t working at the moment had been directly contradicted by US Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, who tweeted on 7 January: “Carbon capture is critical for solving climate change. And it’s working.”

“Mr Cameron told the [Liason Committee] in 2014 that ‘CCS is absolutely vital to decarbonisation’, especially if gas plays a role in future energy provision,” said Professor Stuart Hazeldine, Director of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, the largest CCS research group in the UK in a press statement entitled ‘Why Carbon Capture and Storage in [an] Inherent part of the UK’s Energy and Climate Clean-up.’

This is ever more the case following the UN climate change agreement last year, which commits the UK to keeping global warming to less than 2°C in perpetuity, continued Hazeldine, which means that from 2050, every tonne of carbon emitted by the UK economy will need to be balanced by a tonne of carbon stored: “Instead of capturing just 25% of carbon from the UK energy sector, the UK must now capture 100% of its carbon from the whole economy. Which means that CCS is more essential than ever.”

“While the UK Government has cancelled its CCS prize, they still have a clear option to fund the first CCS projects through a higher price on electricity that would add just £20 per megawatt hour,” concluded Hazeldine. “The UK must regain its low-carbon agenda before it loses ten years worth of development and reputation as a leading voice in climate change action.”

Yet the prime minister appeared reluctant to support policies that would raise people’s bills: “As things stand, you put the £1 billion […] and then you have to pay £170 per megawatt hour [for electricity from CCS-equipped plants] – a full £80 more than nuclear, and more than twice as much as gas – and that money will go on bill payers’ bills. Governing is about making decisions, and it seemed to me that the right decision was to say that we would not go ahead with the £1 billion.”

The prime minister also rubbished claims that his government was backsliding on its environmental commitment: “I totally disagree with anyone who says that on the one hand Britain helped to pioneer this climate change agreement, and on the other hand that it is somehow backsliding on its green commitments,” Cameron said in response to questioning from Liason Committee Chair and Labour MP, Huw Irranca-Davies. “That is total and utter nonsense.”

In addition to cancelling CCS funding, the UK government has also faced criticism for reigning in spending on renewables and promoting a new “dash-for-gas” under plans announced by Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, last year to reform the UK’s energy sector.

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