UK Decarbonisation and Carbon Capture and Storage — [Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Phil Boswell Phil Boswell Scottish National Party, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 2:30 pm, 24th January 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered UK decarbonisation and carbon capture and storage.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts, and to have secured this debate. First, I declare an interest. Prior to coming to this place, I was Shell’s contract lead on the carbon capture and storage project at Peterhead. I moved the project from its previous format in Longannet. Further to that, I was on the CCS parliamentary advisory group working under Lord Oxburgh. It reported to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in September last year with the report, “Lowest Cost Decarbonisation for the UK: The Critical Role of CCS”. I therefore have great interest in the subject, and I commend all Members who have come forward to speak in the debate.

It is prudent to consider, at least summarily, the background against which the debate has been brought to the House. Since successfully winning a narrow majority, the Conservative Government have been rapidly drawing back from the previous coalition Government’s much-lauded green policies. Tony Juniper described it in his article in The Guardian on 24 July 2015 as

“an anti-environment ideology based on the view that ecological goals interfere with the market, increase costs and are against the interests of people.”

The cancellation of the ring-fenced £1 billion funding for the carbon capture and storage competition on 25 November 2015 is just one of a succession of cancellations of green policy initiatives and renewable programmes. Those cancellations include scrapping support for onshore wind; axing solar subsidies; removing the guaranteed level of renewables obligation subsidy for biomass; killing the flagship green homes scheme; privatising the green investment bank, which my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry will discuss tomorrow; removing incentives to buy greener cars; abandoning the plan for zero-carbon homes; a U-turn to allow fracking on sites of special scientific interest; dropping the green targets; and—this is what triggered the CCS parliamentary advisory group’s report and, subsequently, this debate—scrapping the ring-fenced £1 billion of funding for the carbon capture and storage competition in November 2015.

With so much backtracking on green and renewable energy initiatives, the scrapping of that funding may not have been a shock to everyone. I forecasted it, but the industry, which was four years into the £1 billion competition, was shocked. Quite honestly, it virtually wiped out the industry in the UK in one fell swoop. Dr Luke Warren, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said that the decision was

“just incredible. Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1bn of funding for CCS…Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four-year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”

What does that do for investor confidence? The litany of cancelled, diluted and abandoned renewable and green initiatives, as well as those within the energy industry as a whole, have virtually destroyed investor confidence in the UK energy sector. The third report of the 2015-16 session by the Energy and Climate Change Committee, “Investor confidence in the UK energy sector”, was published on 23 February 2016. The Committee is chaired by my hon. Friend Mr MacNeil, and the report identified six factors that combined to damage investor confidence in the UK. The fourth was:

“Policy inconsistency and contradictory approaches have sent mixed messages to the investment community”.

The report goes on to cite three specific examples, of which the third is

“emphasising the important role of gas while scrapping support for carbon capture and storage.”

Earlier in the same month, the same Committee released a report, “Future of carbon capture and storage in the UK”, which opened with the warning:

“Meeting the UK’s climate change commitments will be challenging if we do not apply carbon capture and storage (CCS) to new gas-fired power stations and to our energy intensive industries.”

It goes on to state that alternatives to CCS are likely to cost the UK more in the future to meet legally binding climate change targets as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. The report went on to criticise the Government’s focus on investment in shale gas exploration and quoted the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as saying:

“In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built.”

The report concluded that

“the manner in which the carbon capture and storage competition was cancelled, weeks before the final bids were to be submitted and without any prior indication given to the relevant parties, was both disappointing and damaging to the relationship between Government and industry.”

There will be positive news for the Government on that later in my speech.