Carbon capture technology supported by MPs

April 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment

by Gavin Pearson

MPs across the House expressed degrees of optimism yesterday that new technologies would save the environment and meet Britain’s energy needs in the years ahead.

However, Climate Change and Energy Questions saw little else agreed on.

Members from all sides expressed support for carbon capture technology, but that didn’t prevent MPs attacking government and Conservative policy, possible high costs, and likely delays in meeting energy shortfalls.

The session started with Energy and Climate Change Minister Mike O’Brien explaining that coal was key to the UK’s future and present energy needs.

And with that in mind the Government had announced a new framework for the development of clean coal technology.

Stephen Hepburn hoped that this meant a long term future for coal, while Andrew Mackinley requested that the proposed test project be built in his constituency to provide locals with new jobs.

The Minister warned he could not indicate where the project would be, but promised one would be in place between 2014 and 2016.

This news pleased Lib Dem David Howarth. However, he accused the Government of dithering because of an obsession with nuclear power.

This was rebuffed and Mike O’Brien who added that there were environmentalist who opposed to all use of coal even with carbon capture technology. And so discussions had been necessary.

David Taylor welcomed the prospects for the deep mining coal sector, but warned carbon capture might mask the damage that opencast mining could do.

He was reassured that while that was a planning matter rather than an energy one, the Government position remained one of a presumption against opencast mining unless a good case is made for a specific project.

Looking north of the border, The SNP’s Mike Weir fretted that the new technology could place new costs on Scottish coal generation. He was told by the Minister that there should be no new charges attached, and that work was underway to deal with the cost issues.

Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker proposed that no new coal station be built without the technology. However, Mr O’Brien used that as a chance to swipe at Tory policy and suggested they hadn’t changed their views on coal since the 1980s.

Laura Moffatt added her voice to support for the new technology and found rare agreement from Mike O’Brien that several companies should be involved as a great many technological options were trailed.

MPs then moved onto Nuclear energy, and proposals for new nuclear power stations.

Conservative MP Robert Goodwill asked whether planning reform would ensure rapid and effective decisions for new nuclear build proposals. Secretary of State Ed Miliband gave him that assurance and said that the nuclear power strategy would be published later this year.

However, when Shadow Conservative Energy and Climate Change Minister Charles Hendry suggested that the Government’s delay on nuclear energy would lead to an energy crunch in the next few years.

The Secretary of State said it was ridiculous for the Conservatives to criticise on the grounds of energy security, when they had themselves opposed plans for new nuclear build.

Labour’s David Chaytor drew a more practical response when he asked about finding sites for nuclear waste storage. Three councils have put forward proposals to host a nuclear waste storage project. And the cost of this would be met by the industry.

Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson Martin Horwood then argued that the new renewable energy agency be funded at least as well as its nuclear counterpart. Ed Miliband said it would be adequately funded, and that no one should try to pick and choose between useful energy technologies.

Despite some suggestion from Ann Winterton that expanding ice sheets showed a need for a more balanced discussion about the realities of climate changes, questions moved on to wind turbines and where to build them.

Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz asked about network connections for on and off shore wind turbines. Energy and Climate Change Minister Mike O’Brien agreed this was a vital matter and expressed his hope that a gigawatt of access would soon be approved.

Conservative Sir Nicholas Winterton criticised the development of the wind sector in the UK, with most turbines imported from abroad. However, he was told that while this was true, many built in the UK were exported to America. Mike O’Brien also criticised local Conservative Party opposition to proposals for onshore wind farms.

The Conservatives then claimed that onshore wind farms were inefficient and worked for only a quarter of the time. The Minister said they generally operated at higher levels than that, and remained a vital part of the new energy mix.

This raised the matter of how cost effective onshore and offshore wind farms were.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband explained that there would be more financial support for both thanks to the budget, and rejected Peter Bone’s suggestion that planning should always presume against onshore wind farms, as it does with opencast mining.

Lib Dem Jo Swinson criticised the lack of investment in green technology in the budget but was told that the renewables obligation would see £100billion invested. Andy Reed then sought and received assurances that micro generation would be a big part of Government’s plans.

Shadow Conservative Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Clark moved on to home energy efficiency. He highlighted criticism from Greenpeace about government programmes to spread the cost of installing insulation in people’s homes. And he demanded to know why Labour did not adopt Conservative proposals to simply give every household £6,500 for insulation.

Secretary of State Ed Miliband pointed out that would cost £170billion and that the Conservatives had not costed the proposal.


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