Environmental Audit Committee

Announcement of Publication


22 July 2008

The Government must set a deadline for coal-fired power stations to adopt carbon capture and storage or face closure.

The Government cannot rely on the carbon price alone to create the incentives necessary to drive the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage. It must set a deadline after which the operation of unabated coal-fired power stations will no longer be permitted. Without such action the Government will be very unlikely to meet its own carbon reduction targets, the Environmental Audit Committee concludes.

In a report out today, Carbon Capture and Storage, the Committee says that carbon capture and storage (CCS) has the potential to contribute significantly to emissions reductions, and could play a decisive role in reducing emissions both domestically and internationally.

Progress on CCS has been regrettably slow. The future take-up of the technology is far from certain; it is not clear when, or if, CCS will be available. The Committee concludes that the current momentum for new coal-fired plant is failing to take adequate account of the environmental impact of coal and the challenges of developing CCS. There is a very real danger that the development of new coal-fired power stations could leave the UK 'locked-in' to high levels of emissions for decades to come. Coal must be seen as a last resort, and the possibility of CCS technology must not be used as a fig leaf to give unabated coal-fired power stations an appearance of acceptability.

The Committee insists the Government should make clear to industry that it will not permit the operation of unabated coal-fired power stations in the longer-term. There is no guarantee that the carbon price will reach a sufficient level to make CCS cost-effective. The Committee calls on the Government to set a date by which emissions from all power stations will have to a particular standard or face closure. By setting such a deadline and making its intentions clear the Government will send a vital signal to the power generation industry about the future of coal and the importance of developing and retrofitting carbon capture and storage.

The Committee also considered the definition of 'CCS ready', where a power station is granted planning permission on the condition that it can accommodate the retrofitting of CCS technology and infrastructure at a future date. The Committee concluded that there was no guarantee that a plant approved on this basis would actually be willing or able to retrofit CCS once the technology had been demonstrated on a commercial scale. Without a deadline for the retrofitting of CCS, the Committee believes that planning permission granted on the condition of CCS readiness is meaningless.

Chairman of the Committee, Tim Yeo MP, said: "Carbon capture and storage has undoubted potential, but there is a real question about when it will become technologically and, equally importantly, commercially viable. We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all.

"It is absolutely crucial for the Government to take a strong line on this. It must tell the industry that carbon capture and storage will be required, and that coal-fired power stations will not be permitted to operate unabated. By setting a deadline for power stations to meet a certain emissions standard, the development and deployment of CCS will be given a much needed push in the right direction, and the environmental damage caused by these stations will be minimised.

"In the meantime, the Government must demonstrate a clearer and more urgent strategy in order to speed the development of CCS. Although we welcome the Government's competition to develop a demonstration plant, this competition is only one part of a wider strategy, and the Government must continue to support other CCS projects. In addition to the environmental benefits, the timely development of a range of CCS technologies would also give the UK a clear competitive advantage on the global stage."

Notes for Editors:

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, Carbon Capture and Storage, HC 654. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/eacom

Copies of the EAC report will be available in hard copy from 11am on 22 July 2008; and can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 654. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage: www.parliament.uk/eacom

For further information on the report, or to bid to interview the Chairman, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.