Last week it was announced that the Longannet CCS project would not be going ahead. Longannet was the only remaining contender in the UK CCS competition. Shortly after this decision was made public, the UK Parliament Energy and Climate Change Committee published a report which also said that CCS technology is unlikely to be commercially available before 2020.
The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary reassured that the UK government is still committed to demonstrating CCS and that the £1billion earmarked for CCS will be spent on alternative projects. However, this does not change the fact that four years after the CCS competition was formally launched, the number of contenders went down from four to nil and the prospects for having four demonstration plants in the UK by 2020. This will make it even more challenging to ensure commerically viable CCS plants are available in the future.
Unfortunately the UK is not the only EU country where CCS is facing hard times. In Germany, the Parliament never adopted the long-awaited CCS law and there is still no legal framework for storing CO2. In Poland, the company in charge of the EU-funded CCS demonstration plant in Belchatow said it would not go ahead with the investment unless more public money is found to build and operate the plant.
Globally, there are still only eight large scale integrated CCS projects and this number has not changed for the past few years. This is not surprising given that the R&D spending gap for CCS is larger than for any other low-carbon power generation technology. Renewable energy projects around the world benefit from feed-in-tariffs and other forms of generous support that CCS does not get. Yet, according to the IEA’s analysis of the next four decades of decarbonisation, CCS should provide greater CO2 emissions reductions than renewables if we are to tackle global CO2 emissions in the most cost effective manner.
We should have around 100 CCS projects operating by 2020 to meet the international climate objectives. If governments are serious about climate change it is also about the right time to get serious about funding CCS and get those first demonstration plants up and running.