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UK Urged to Speed Up CCS As Power Crunch Nears
Friday, March 6, 2009
Article Type: Reprinted
Britain should cast aside its hesitation and press ahead with carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, especially as it needs to replace many coal-fired generators, a government advisor told Reuters.
Peter Whitton, managing director of the Advisory Committee on Carbon Abatement Technologies (ACCAT), said its study showed Britain could source about 10 percent of its power from CCS-equipped fossil fuel plants by 2020.
This would help Britain cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, while ensuring electricity supply and providing a back up to multiplying wind farms, despite the closure of about 25 gigawatts of aging coal, oil and nuclear plants by 2015.
CCS is a process that allows carbon dioxide to be captured from power stations and transported to suitable locations for storage, such as former oil or gas fields.
Whitton said nobody in Britain was willing to invest in CCS at present as so far the government had failed to clarify its policy, though it launched a competition for a CCS demonstration project last year.
"ACCAT's recommendation is that Britain could achieve 10 percent of its generation from CCS by 2020...That is what the government should be aiming for," he said.
"There's enough carbon capture and storage technology around to be able to do it today in basic knowledge terms and equipment terms," he added.
ACCT was set up in October by the Department of Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) to provide independent advice to the government on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, especially from power generation.
It is to meet Mike O'Brien, Minister of State for Department of Energy and Climate Control, in the near future to discuss the study, which was completed in February.
CCS is seen by industry as an important instrument in the fight against climate change as it could curb emissions from coal plants, which are multiplying rapidly around the world particularly in developing countries like India and China.
But it has never been tested on a commercial scale and it is strongly opposed by some environmentalists, who argue it is unsafe, expensive and will not be ready in time and could divert investment from truly green sources of power.
Whitton's call came after Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said the government will not announce the winner of the CCS competition until early next year.
Miliband also said last week that he would secure funding from Europe, if there were more than one demonstration CCS project.
His remark has added to confusion as initially the government wanted to sponsor only one demonstration CCS project that uses post-combustion technology -- a facility that can be retrofitted to existing power plants. 
Whitton said the government should also encourage pre-combustion CCS. Though it could not be retrofitted, it could play a major role in Britain where many coal or gas fired plants needed to be replaced with new ones.
"What UK needs is clean generation to fill its generation gap. That's where pre-combustion capture comes in and helps," he said. "That is the policy decision that is needed."
To unleash investment in CCS Whitton said the government should introduce incentives, such as a guaranteed floor price for carbon for the first 2,000 MW with CCS facilities.
"It would take away risk associated with the carbon market. Then all people have to do is to prepare to take the technology risk and construction risk...Private industry is good at doing that sort of thing," he said.
"All over the place, projects would appear. There're quite a few partly developed projects in the UK."
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