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

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:37 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Callum McCaig Callum McCaig Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Energy and Climate Change) 3:37 pm, 24th January 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate my hon. Friend Philip Boswell on both securing the debate and leading it in such an informed and passionate way. He set out the key issues around CCS, the history and, more importantly, the way forward.

I will also focus more on the way forward, but it is beholden upon us to look back slightly. The cancellation of the £1 billion competition that would have benefited the White Rose project and the project at Peterhead was deeply regrettable, in respect of both the way it was done—the announcement was snuck out after the autumn statement with little or no forewarning to the companies involved—and, as the National Audit Office report shows, the colossal waste of money.

At the time, I said it was clear that the Government knew the cost of everything but the value of nothing: the cost was £100 million to save £1 billion or £900 million. However, as we have heard multiple sources suggest, delays to the project could cost consumers £1 billion to £2 billion per year in the 2020s, and up to £4 billion to £5 billion per year in the 2040s. Colossal amounts of money could have been saved; if we do not act now, that will be lost through the additional costs that consumers will have to bear.

With the honourable exception of Sammy Wilson, most of us accept, although not unquestioningly, the requirement to decarbonise our energy system—that is, “energy” in its widest sense. We often focus purely on electricity, but as some hon. Members have mentioned, there are many cross-synergies among the different forms of energy. That is why carbon capture should be considered.

May I place on the record my commendation for the Oxburgh committee report—those who served on the committee and the chair in particular? It is an excellent report and, as we have heard from those who did serve, the work was done in a way that did not prejudge the outcome. The report was an open, honest and thorough analysis of the costs and benefits that CCS could bring, but it also left on the table the option of not progressing. It was produced in September 2016. As far as I am aware, the Government have yet to offer much in the way of a response. I hope that we will hear from the Minister his considerations and those of his Department on the report and how they are seeking to take it forward.

As has been mentioned, there are clear synergies with the Government’s industrial strategy. I am talking about the ability to tie in research and development and have a world-leading technology that we can develop here on these shores. As the hon. Members for Waveney (Peter Aldous) and for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop) mentioned, this technology feeds into the Government’s honest appraisal that they need to do more to boost economic growth outwith this city of London and the surrounding environments.

Carbon capture does that very well. It ties in neatly with existing and former industrial heartlands, as the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland suggested. It provides the potential for existing industrial producers, which in many cases are venting pure CO2—that should not be happening in this day and age, but there is no mechanism for them to cease doing it—to maintain their competitive advantage. That is how we anchor these companies in constituencies such as the hon. Gentleman’s and in places such as Grangemouth in Scotland, where we have strong industrial hubs that can have a very bright future. They can continue to do what they are doing well now, but they can also develop new technologies into the future that the planet as a whole is going to need.

We had a degree of discussion about the clarity that will be required in terms of the process of leaving the EU. There are optimists and pessimists among us, and clarity will indeed be required. The plan of action has previously centred on European co-operation, be it the energy union, the emissions trading scheme or the united approach to the Paris talks. Whether that means that a singular approach by the UK could produce better results will probably depend on whether someone is a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” sort of guy. I will err on the side of optimism. There is probably a degree more optimism in me following yesterday’s announcement on the industrial strategy: that the Government understand and will take this issue seriously.

The key point is that, as the hon. Member for Waveney said, this features across all the key aspects of the industrial strategy and all the areas where we are struggling or perhaps are not doing as much as we can in terms of decarbonisation. We can look at heat, transport or electricity in isolation. We can look in isolation at what we do with energy-intensive industrial producers. Alternatively, we can look at those things in the round. If we look at them in the round and see how we can apply carbon capture to those technologies, we will find a much more affordable and viable way of decarbonising. Finding those synergies, finding the areas of expertise and developing the companies that have the knowledge to do this provides us with a real opportunity.

How do we go about doing that? The Oxburgh report and its various recommendations are the blueprint. The key take-away from that for me was that what we are discussing can be done and can be done affordably. It highlighted some of the failings of the previous approaches in basically outsourcing the risk entirely to those bidding into the competition. Breaking it up and allowing different companies, with different expertise, to join in the process in the area to which they are best suited will allow costs to be reduced, to an extent where we could see a contract for difference price of £85 per megawatt-hour, which is competitive with other forms of production.

In some ways, as my hon. Friend Alan Brown suggested, CCS could be more established and cheaper than what we are pursuing at Hinkley. That shows the urgent requirement for the technology to be included in the Government’s industrial strategy and emissions reduction plan; if we do not do that now, it will, as we have heard, get more expensive.

I have been in many a debate with the hon. Member for East Antrim in which his views on this issue have been expressed. I disagree with him from an ideological point of view, but also from a practical point of view. Yes, there are costs in relation to the infrastructure that will be required to decarbonise our power system, but to suggest that there are not costs from continuing to do what we are doing is simply not correct.