Peter Aldous calls for investment in carbon capture and storage

24th January 2017

Peter Aldous calls for investment in carbon capture and storage which has a crucial role to play if the UK is to deliver the emissions reductions to which it is committed at the lowest possible cost to consumers and taxpayers.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts, and I will do my best. I congratulate the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell) on securing this debate, which comes at a particularly opportune time, following the publication yesterday of the Government’s Green Paper, “Building our Industrial Strategy.”

I served with the hon. Gentleman on the group chaired by the noble Lord Oxburgh, which published its report on the future of CCS last September. I commend the noble Lord on the way he chaired the group and for looking at all the evidence, seeking out all views and arriving at what I believe are sound and sensible recommendations that the Government should put into practice as soon as possible. It should be noted that the report has been welcomed globally and the noble Lord has been invited to such countries as Norway, Australia and Canada to talk about it.

The group’s membership was wide-ranging and cross-party, and included independent experts from the fields of industry and research. We heard from a wide range of witnesses who work in research and development, industry, and banking, as well as groups such as the Committee on Climate Change. We set out with no preconceived ideas about what our conclusions might be, mindful that the Government’s cancellation of the CCS competition on cost grounds might mean that CCS was a non-starter. We considered a wide range of evidence and concluded that CCS has a crucial role to play if the UK is to deliver the emissions reductions to which it is committed at the lowest possible cost to consumers and taxpayers.

 

I am grateful to my fellow co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on CCS for giving way. CCS could be a game-changer for areas such as Teesside; it could drive investment and improve air quality. The Teesside Collective is showing great leadership on plans in that area. There are also plans for a large gas-fired power station, but those are being frustrated by a complicated planning process. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government need to simplify that process while ensuring that plants are CCS-ready so that we can exploit them properly?

 

I agree that CCS has an important role to play in the regeneration of coastal communities and perhaps areas that have been forgotten over the last few years. That includes the area that the hon. Gentleman represents, many areas in Scotland and the area that I represent.

The report contains six recommendations for how CCS can perform that crucial role. I believe that we reached the right conclusions, for three reasons. First, the UK has made commitments, through the Climate Change Act 2008 and international agreements, to reduce carbon emissions. Those were most recently reconfirmed in Paris in autumn 2015. As a result, we have a duty to put in place measures that will enable us to get on with meeting those targets at the lowest possible cost to the country’s consumers and taxpayers.

It quickly became apparent to the group that we cannot get on with that without CCS. The great advantage of CCS is that it is a highly strategic technology that can deliver emissions reductions across many sectors, including, as we have heard, power generation, energy-intensive industries, heat and transport. It should also be pointed out that CCS has the potential to safely store 15% of current UK CO2 emissions by 2030 and up to 40% by 2050.

There is a cost associated with inaction on CCS. Last summer, the Committee on Climate Change highlighted that if we take no action on CCS, the cost to UK consumers will be £1 billion to £2 billion per annum in the 2020s, rising to £4 billion to £5 billion per annum in the 2040s.

 

I endorse all my hon. Friend’s points. Does the history of renewable energy not show that those who invest early not only reduce their carbon footprint much more rapidly, but save money downstream? It will become much more difficult to invest and much more expensive to the UK taxpayer if we leave this decision for five or 10 years.

 

I agree. There is a compelling case for us to get on with this now.

The second reason why CCS is important is cost. That was why the previous pilots failed. The Oxburgh report established that the high costs revealed by earlier approaches in the UK were attributable to the design of the competitions, not the underlying costs of CCS itself. Analysis by the CCS Reduction Task Force and for the Committee on Climate Change, which was confirmed by Lord Oxburgh’s group, showed that CCS can be delivered at approximately £85 per megawatt-hour. That is competitive with other large-scale low-carbon energies such as nuclear and offshore wind.

CCS also has what I regard as a unique selling point. Some people might say, “Why us? Why the UK? Let other countries, such as Norway, do the hard legwork to get the technology off the ground. We’ll join the party later.” Such comments are wrong and misplaced, and out of context with what Britain should be doing in this post-Brexit world. The UK has a unique selling point that means that we must be pioneers in the vanguard of the CCS movement. This USP—what unites me in my Waveney constituency in East Anglia with the hon. Members from Scotland and the north-east—is the North sea, the United Kingdom continental shelf, where we have our own large safe and secure CO2 storage vessel offshore in the rocks in this country’s territorial waters. As a result of the development of the oil and gas industry in the North sea over the past 50 years, the UK has developed an enormous expertise of experience that we can harness to deliver carbon capture and storage.

Yesterday the Government published their Green Paper, “Building our Industrial Strategy”. CCS and implementing the recommendations of the Oxburgh report fit well with the Government’s ambitions and directions of travel. When I go through the pillars underpinning the industrial strategy, CCS ticks all 10 boxes. If the Government accept the six Oxburgh recommendations, they will invest in science, research and particularly innovation. Investing in CCS goes hand in hand with developing skills, boosting science, technology, engineering and maths skills, and raising school levels and lagging areas. I could go through all 10, but I sense my time is pressing, Mr Betts, so I will cut to the chase—to the final pillar of creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.

The strategy states:

“We will consider the best structures to support people, industries and places.”

That is a ringing endorsement for the six Oxburgh report recommendations.

On that note, I will conclude. Lord Oxburgh has provided the right framework for an exciting new industry and now is the right time to invest in CCS.

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