The UK’s former energy secretary says the government ought to re-examine recent decisions, if it is to anticipate a potential energy gap, as well as successfully decarbonise heavy industry.
In a difficult period for carbon capture and storage supporters, Ed Davey’s supportive stance on the technology will be welcomed, as the debate continues on whether it becomes a viable part of the drive to reduce C02 levels.
Mr. Davey was responding to questions from Power Engineering International about the present government’s direction on energy, and in particular the analysis that suggests gas-fired and nuclear power plants will not be built quick enough to offset other plant closures.
“(The government) will have to do a combination of things – from increasing the amount of capacity it purchases in the capacity auctions, potentially at higher prices, keeping old plant on the bars, to reversing its decisions on different renewable technologies.”
Despite offshore wind power being one of the winners in the British government’s selection of technologies worth backing, Mr Davey says the government’s approach with regard to the energy mix is incorrect.
“Offshore wind alone won’t fill any short or even medium term gap, though it is and should play an increasingly significant role – and in my view is critical to the UK’;s long term low carbon energy future. The Coalition’s energy policy was all about diversity, and not getting hung up against any one technology, except coal. The Tories are picking winners as if they were socialists because they are ideologically excluding technologies like onshore wind from the mix.”
He was also unequivocal on carbon capture and storage when asked by PEi if the government should reverse its stance on it and whether he believed CCS is essential as part of the power mix needed to tackle climate change.
“Yes and yes: CCS may or may not be critical to the electricity mix, but it is crucial in the story of decarbonising heavy industry.”
The words of the former energy secretary, now chairman of Mongoose Energy, a community energy investment scheme, will be welcomed by CCS’s backers after what has been a disappointing start to the year.
The government opted not to go ahead with a £1bn investment in the technology last month, while there has also, this week, been some scientific reportage, which cast doubt on the ability of the technology to adequately store C02 effectively as its proponents claim.
Industry spirits were further dampened on Wednesday when Bill Gates spoke about geoengineering and other perceived to be expensive ways of combating climate change.
“What we need to get that probability up to be very high is to take 12 or so paths to get there. Like carbon capture and sequestration is a path,” Mr Gates told Bloomberg, before later stating blunt views about its prospects for success.
“Geoengineering is, at best, a backup strategy to buy ourselves time, if we don’t move quickly enough and things like the ice melting and methane release are happening in a nonlinear way that we don’t expect. I support research on geoengineering and a dialogue on geoengineering. But it really is like a fire extinguisher that puts the flames out for decades as opposed to a real solution.”
Gates statements were made in conjunction with the promotion of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a global group of 28 high net worth investors from 10 countries committed to funding clean energy companies emerging from the initiatives of Mission Innovation, which was also announced at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Despite appearing to be stalled for now, leading advocate, Brad Page, chairman of the Global CCS Institute is in no doubt that CCS will yet be called upon to effectively combat global warming.
Interviewed on Energy Wire website, he said, “I think that we see from a lot of analysis that if you don’t have CCS, you really cannot attain those 1.5-degree outcomes (as announced at the COP21 climate agreement in Paris).”
“It will take time for governments to work out the policies that are required to reach those targets. But we’ve been encouraged by the extent to which we’ve been having discussions with a range of governments, and who in fact in their targets that they submitted to the UNFCCC process have indicated that they expect CCS to be a significant part. So over time I think we’ll see policy changes which will lead to that private-sector capital coming onboard and being deployed.”
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