Saturday, 20 June 2009
Have a Care, Ed Miliband
In April Ed Miliband seemed to have squared the circle between maintaining some potentially problematic green positions, and keeping the lights on. In a neat bit of realpolitik he ruled that only ‘carbon-capture ready’ new coal plants would be granted approval – but set the CCR bar really low, maximising the chances that some much-needed new coal plants will actually get built.
It seems however that he’s not content with this clever stroke: he’s out to consultation on a material extension of CCR, and in grave danger of overdoing things.
“New coal fired power stations should only be given consent in the UK if they demonstrate CCS on at least 300MW net (around 400MW gross) of capacity from day one. Each demonstration project would have to store 20 million tonnes of CO2 over 10-15 years. The proposed framework recognises that CCS demonstration will only proceed with Government intervention. A financial incentive funded by electricity suppliers will support up to four commercial-scale CCS demonstrations in the UK”
CCS means actual carbon-capture-and-storage; and “funded by electricity suppliers” means of course that they will be responsible for levying us all to fund these demonstration projects.
Arguably, Machiavelliband may still have a weasel in mind:
“We expect operators to make all reasonable efforts to maximise the operation of the full chain of a CCS demonstration”
As any lawyer will tell you, “reasonable efforts” implicitly recognizes economic reality, and falls a long way short of “best endeavours”. But then he ups the ante significantly:
“If operation of commercial-scale CCS proves to be particularly difficult or costly**, there is a risk that operators will choose not to make reasonable efforts to operate [the demonstration project] … We would not consider this to be acceptable … our initial preference is … the [entire] power station should not be allowed to continue operation”
And so it goes on. Consult away, Ed, but don't expect private companies to invest on that basis. It begins to look more like one of Brown’s scorched earth strategies than intelligent energy politics.
** which isn’t hard to envisage when, on the government’s own numbers (see above), it takes 400 MW of gross CCS capacity to yield 300MW of output, i.e. 25% is required just to run the CCS !