Industry leaders have called on Westminster to provide “robust new support” for fledgling carbon capture projects to prevent Britain missing out on thousands of jobs and lower household energy bills.
Coal industry bosses made the plea in the wake of a major study into the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which presses the case for an ambitious roll-out programme.
It claims that up to 1,500 jobs could be created through the construction of each new-build CCS power plant with as many as 300 posts generated in the operational, maintenance and supply chain side.
The report, published by the TUC and the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, also flags a likely reduction in the average annual household energy bill of £82, although other estimates warn of a probable increase in electricity costs.
Coal and gas-fired power plants provide much of the world’s electricity, but they also produce large amounts of greenhouse gas such as CO2.
CCS involves capturing waste CO2, transporting it to a storage site, typically through pipes, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.
A UK-wide competition to design and build commercial CCS systems has been beset with problems and delays, though schemes for power stations at Peterhead and Drax in North Yorkshire are in the pipeline.
Nigel Yaxley, right, managing director of the Association of UK Coal Importers (CoalImp), said the CCS development process was currently “where it should have been five years ago” and warned that Britain had fallen behind other countries, including Canada, where one of the world’s biggest facilities is under way.
“It’s a little bit frustrating as it is a good technology with plenty of potential,” he told The Scotsman.
“We need to see full design works [at Drax and Peterhead] continue as quickly as possible and then the government needs to take the next step and commit to the projects. There are other CCS schemes waiting in the wings.”
He added: “There is nothing particularly magical, but these are large projects and they are initially expensive to build.
“I would expect to see Drax on line this decade, but we don’t want to see just one scheme.”
CoalImp describes coal as the “world’s fastest growing and cheapest fuel”, capable of playing a key role in an “affordable, sustainable energy mix”.
Statutory targets call for an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It has been estimated that, without CCS, the cost of meeting this goal will rise by more than £30 billion a year.
Some green campaigners have given their support to CCS for existing power stations but criticise an over-reliance on a non-renewable resource.
Yaxley said: “CCS represents an opportunity for the UK’s coal industry to participate sustainably in the future energy mix.”