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I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of the Government’s industrial strategy, which is what seems to be their limited work to deliver carbon capture and storage projects, with the thousands of new jobs CCS could create and the hundreds of thousands it could protect.
Yesterday, I took part in a roundtable hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research on northern energy industry, where I spoke about the northern energy taskforce and its recommendations on expanding low-carbon energy. The recommendations are ambitious, realistic, comprehensive and achievable, but they are also essential. The north has a huge advantage when it comes to expanding low-carbon generation: hydrogen production, in which Teesside is the bigger producer in the country; the development of energy storage; the opportunity to develop smart grids to support our industry and communities better; and, of course, carbon capture and storage.
I chair the all-party group on carbon capture and storage, and I know that both parliamentarians and people from industry have been very disappointed and frustrated at the lack of comprehensive action on this issue. Two years ago, the Government cancelled the CCS competition to establish one or two projects at the Humber and in Scotland. Since then, we have been trying to play catch-up, and while there have been encouraging words from the Government about possible investment, every moment of delay is a continued failure. Delays are also giving countries the opportunity to steam ahead of us so far that we will never reap the benefits that CCS can bring to the UK.
Carbon capture is vital not only to create and support industry, and to increase productivity and profitability, but in delivering the clean growth grand challenge, in that it would deliver a long-term sustainable future for key industries such as chemicals, steel, cement and oil refining, and it would enable low-carbon fossil fuels to continue to provide a clean, flexible source of electricity.
I was a little encouraged when the Government published their clean growth strategy in October last year, which includes the intention to develop a new approach to carbon capture and storage, but I am concerned about its ambition of deploying CCS at scale during the 2030s, subject to cost reduction. I am afraid we need much more than ambition when it comes to this issue; we need robust plans that deliver our capability and need. I am afraid that the 2030s will be far too late—long after other countries have steamed ahead of us and taken the opportunity.
I am proud to represent a Teesside constituency, and it is deeply frustrating for me to see the potential that we have to be a key CCS site while the Government talk a good talk but appear slow to real action. The Teesside Collective is based in my area, and one of its main projects is decarbonisation. The collective is industry-led. Those industries know what they are talking about, and they know what they can achieve given the right environment. Teesside’s concentration of industrial emitters and proximity to potential storage sites under the North sea means that the area is industrially and geographically suited to be the starting place for large-scale industrial decarbonisation in the United Kingdom. We also have the potential for a large-scale CCS-ready power station, which would add huge value to any project in the area.
While I trust that I will always be Teesside-focused, it is important for us also to focus on developing CCS in other countries and regions, such as Scotland, Yorkshire and Humber, the north-west and Wales. A number of potential projects are already being considered, and the Government need to create a framework in which they can be successfully delivered.
CCS is also an essential part of the lowest-cost route to achieving the UK’s climate change targets. The Committee on Climate Change has said that the Government should not even be considering any scenario to meet the 2050 target that does not include CCS. If we are not to be left behind, we need the first CCS projects to begin operating in the 2020s. While the £100 million to support that work is welcome, the Government will need to do much more to ensure its success. The development of low-carbon industrial clusters would constitute a major upgrade to UK infrastructure for a decarbonised economy, supporting regional growth at a time when the outlook appears shaky at best.
Sadly, by the time we see the report from the Cost Challenge Taskforce we shall be three years behind where we should have been. The time is now. I believe that the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry—who visited Teesside recently—does “get” CCS, but we need her to bang on the doors of the Treasury and come up with the money that is needed to push these matters further forward.
It is vital for the deployment pathway to set out a strong and clear approach to CCS that will enable the first projects to begin operating in the 2020s—and that is 10 years earlier than the Government appear to be planning. Our industries need to know that the Government are on their side, and are prepared to work in partnership and share the financial risk as CCS is developed.