Carbon capture and energy permits soon a must for energy generators and manufacturers

The European Union has pledged billions of euros to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for power plants in a vote earlier today (Tuesday).

The controversial proposal would see 12 pilot projects built and existing coal-fired power stations retrofitted with the technology using about 10 billion euros (£8 billion) of funding. North West MEP, Chris Davies (Lib Dem) was behind the amendment. The support will be welcomed by a broad range of environmental groups because coal-fired power stations will continue to provide an increasing amount of electricity in Europe under any foreseeable circumstances.

CCS has been installed on a small scale but not developed to the degree needed to make it a viable commercial option. Funding is expected to carry a sting for the power companies in its tail, however. Power plants will not only have to be CCS ready, but also to have carried out surveys relating to the storage and transport of CO2. A second amendment, pioneered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, would ban any power plant that emits more than 500g of carbon dioxide per kWh of electricity generated. This would effectively ban non CCS enabled coal-fired plants.

In the same session of what became known as ‘Super Tuesday,’ states also voted to rope energy generators into its emissions trading scheme and force it them to buy permits for CO2 emitted from 2013. A phased approach will see 15 per cent auctioning of permits in energy intensive industries from 2013 to 100 per cent auctioning by 2020.

The construction supply chain has been lobbying hard against the measure because it says it will lead to ‘carbon leakage,’ or the movement of manufacturing facilities to areas with softer rules. However, opponents called claims a bluff saying that such industries as cement manufacture were not so easily transferable.

The votes will form part of the EU’s negotiations with leaders before ratification later this year or early 2009.

Climate change committee reports

Closer to home, the newly-formed Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said that the UK must make 80% cuts in all greenhouses gases by 2050 and include those from international aviation and shipping. Experts predict the limited gains to be achived in cutting carbon in transportation will require the effective decarbonisation of the rest of the economy by that date. The targets will be legally binding and the CCC, headed by Lord Adair Turner, will set budgets for CO2 emissions.

Lord Turner wrote to the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, saying the target could be achieved at a cost of one to two per cent of GDP in 2050.

Commenting on the Committee on Climate Change’s interim advice on the level of the 2050 target under the Climate Change Bill, Merlin Hyman, Director of the Environmental Industries Commission, warned that targets would not be enough and called for energy savings' policies to be implemented:

"Meeting the targets will require urgent government action and the first priority must be a step change in energy efficiency. “EIC welcome the Committee’s focus on energy efficiency and believe that a step change in the way we use energy in the UK is the cheapest and most effective way of meeting the targets. We urgently need, therefore, a range of policies for securing energy savings right across the economy that are as equally ambitious as today’s recommendations.”