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

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:30 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 3:30 pm, 24th January 2017

I will respond to the hon. Gentleman’s intervention during my comments. The future costs for the duration of the CCS project are unknown, and perhaps the figures do not add up on all of the lines.

Two projects that were shortlisted for the CCS process both failed to meet the proposal goals. The work done centrally by the Department in sustaining negotiations for the second competition for the project with its preferred bidders must be noted—a process is in place. The hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill has clearly outlined some of the evidence, and I will pose some questions on that. I can clearly say that I support the principle of what we are trying to achieve, but I wonder whether it can be achieved by that process. There are lessons to be learned, and hopefully valuable commercial knowledge and technical understanding of how to deploy the competition projects will have been gained, as he said. If we have that information, let us see how we can use it to further the project.

There are currently no examples of large-scale CCS projects in the UK, and only 16 operational projects worldwide. BEIS should maximize its expertise for future CCS strategies and put into practice the lessons it has learned—in other words, the evidence should be used for the betterment of delivering such projects. If and when CCS projects are self-sustaining and economically viable, we will see clean electricity from renewable sources, which we wish to see and are committed to trying to achieve. However, the sticking point is in the phrase “if and when”, meaning we could achieve those things “if and when” the Government and BEIS find a happy medium and the in-between. Hon. Members are often tasked with finding a balanced in-between or the correct way forward.

The substantial future benefit of the CCS process is to avoid the release of CO2, as several hon. Members have indicated. However, it is clear that there are serious problems and critical issues with such projects that we cannot ignore. As I have discussed, there are no large-scale examples of long-term storage projects in the UK, despite a series of UK Government and EU initiatives aimed at incentivising their development. It has been argued that CCS technology is too expensive to be commercially viable for private developers without Government support in the shape of a strike price. Government involvement is critical in taking this forward.

I am aware of the work carried out by the parliamentary advisory group on carbon capture and storage, which found that good design could make CCS affordable. However, I have reservations about the cost of CCS competitions to the taxpayer.