Coal and Carbon Capture and Storage

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 23rd April 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:33 pm, 23rd April 2009

I too am grateful for receiving notice of the statement.

This is a step in the right direction: carbon capture is a vital technology in the transition to a lower carbon electricity-generating economy. It also has huge advantages over, for instance, nuclear, not only because it contributes to base load supply, but because it can provide variable supply, thereby tackling some of the problems of intermittency and peaks and troughs of demand.

I recognise that the Secretary of State might have had to overcome opposition from within his own Government. Last year, some of us battled against the former Minister, who has just spoken, Malcolm Wicks, during the passage of the Energy Act 2008, when he fought tooth and nail against expanded competition, and I think it would be appropriate to say that we have the scars on our backs. Sadly, as a result, we have lost crucial ground to the United States, Canada, Brazil, China and others in benefiting commercially from this technology.

My first question is on funding, which the Committee on Climate Change and The Guardian seem to agree will come from a charge on the power system—in other words, on customers' bills. Today's statement was, understandably, a little cagier, because is there not a risk that this will contribute to fuel poverty without cuts in income tax for the least well-off, without mandated social tariffs—as suggested in the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend Mr. Heath—and without massive investment in energy efficiency for millions of homes, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats?

My second question is about emissions performance standards. I echo many of the comments from Conservative Members and hope that the Government will now support the private Member's Bill promoted by my right hon. Friend Mr. Kennedy.

My third question is about the commitment to 100 per cent. retrofitting. That looks fine until we see the escape clause—whether the technology is ready. The critical question is: who bears the risk of it not being ready, the energy companies or the planet? If CCS is not ready, would a Labour Government close Kingsnorth? Unabated coal-fired power stations are the worst of all options—worse even than seeking a derogation from the European Union to extend the life of existing gas-fired power stations for a few more years until CCS is ready. This statement and policy proposal is well intentioned, but it contains a dirty great loophole that is big enough for some of the dirtiest possible power stations to fit into.