Britain’s Climate Change Committe advises CCS for gas power plants
Influential advisers to the British government warned that Britain will miss its target of 80% emissions reduction target by the middle of the century unless CCS technology is adopted in gas-powered stations.
The climate change committee wrote a letter to Chris Huhne, the climate secretary, in which they said that the government’s pledge to fit new coal power stations with expensive carbon capture and storage equipment should be extended to new gas generators as well. Such a move could see the UK be the first in the world to build such a plant and capitalize on a new “dash for gas”.
Per unit energy, although coal is more polluting than gas, the recent fall in gas prices, new shale gas mining, and mass campaigns against new coal power have stimulated a second “dash for gas”. According to a specialist environment news service called The Ends Report, about 24 new gas-powered stations, totaling 29 GW – are under construction or in the planning process, compared with only 2 new planned coal generators, and a handful of other mooted projects. In 2008, gas supplied nearly 47% of UK electricity generation, compared to nearly 34% from coal.
The committee argued that gas with CCS is likely to be cheaper than coal with CCS, making it a more affordable way of producing clean electricity.
To provide long-term incentives to the industry to develop the technology, Adair Turner, the committee chairman, urged the British cabinet to extend a promised emissions performance standard (EPS) for coal power to the gas sector. Such standards, which regulate what power stations can emit and could be set in the energy bill later in 2010, would need to be zero greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, David Kennedy, the committee’s chief executive, said.
Since Norway has recently cancelled a planned trial of the gas CCS technology, Britain could also be the first country in the world to build one. To avoid missing carbon targets the committee said the government should change its promise to fund up to four trials of carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment on coal stations, as well as demonstrating the technology in at least one gas power plant.
According to analysis by the climate change committee, the cost of fitting CCS to coal and gas plants would be considerably higher than current generation, but lower than future unabated power stations because of rising carbon trading costs to energy producers. For gas the cost per megawatt hour is currently just under £70, while in the future, with CCS, it would be a bit less than £105, while without CCS it would be £115, calculates the committee. For coal the unit cost is currently about £60, rising to £115 with CCS and £160 without CCS.