The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP's speech to the CCSA Reception

Thank you Ron for those warm words. I’m delighted to be here today, and to address an audience who are absolutely key to deliver our clean energy…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Chris Huhne

Thank you Ron for those warm words. I’m delighted to be here today, and to address an audience who are absolutely key to deliver our clean energy future.

There aren’t many energy secretaries who are physicists - let alone Nobel Laureate physicists.

So when Steven Chu, US Energy Secretary, says something, it’s worth listening. Two years ago, in an editorial for Science magazine, he said - and I quote: “the United States, Russia, China, and India account for two-thirds of coal reserves… it is highly unlikely that any of these countries will turn their back on coal any time soon, and for this reason, the capture and storage of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants must be aggressively pursued”.

Since then, US action on CCS has slowed as the introduction of a carbon price has faltered. But the underlying assumptions remain exactly the same. We must keep our eyes on the big picture.

The science tells us that greenhouse gas emissions are already changing our climate; that our best bet is to stick below that two degree limit.

But on the international stage, the evidence runs into hard political reality. The UN process is looking challenging.

Emerging economies do not see why they should deny their people development to undo what they perceive to be our mistakes. In the developed world, domestic politicking holds back progress. And so the deadline for action looms ever closer. And in the absence of a binding global deal to curb emissions, technological solutions become even more important.

Securing a sustainable, low-carbon energy mix will not be easy. There are precious few silver bullets. We can cut a little demand here, boost renewable supply there; each and every addition to the carbon balance sheet will play its part.

If we can show that capturing and storing carbon is financially and technically feasible, we can shift a whole lot of carbon liability into the assets column.

We can also make our economy more competitive - and our energy mix more secure.

CCS can reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power stations by as much as 90%. That allows us to balance out intermittent output from renewables and constant output from nuclear.

That flexibility will be critical. CCS must be part of the global solution to tackling climate change.

Without carbon capture and storage, the cost of staying below 2oC could be 70% higher.

IEA analysis shows that CCS will have to deliver around fifth of global emission reductions by 2050. That’s around 3400 CCS plants by 2050 - an enormous potential global market.

Around the world, up to US$40 billion has already been allocated to CCS projects.

The UK can be proud of our record on CCS. Together with Australia, we have led discussions under the Clean Energy Ministerial to help accelerate CCS demonstration and deployment.

We are playing an active role in preparations for the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum ministerial being held in Beijing in September.

Thanks to our work on the Near Zero Emissions Coal initiative, Chinese industries are now looking seriously at the role CCS could play in their domestic market.

And the South African Energy Minister, Dupio Peters, has described the development of CCS in her country as “one of the key technologies that the South African government is investigating to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions”.

The CCSA and its members are playing an active role in driving international ambition on CCS. That’s not just good for our carbon conscience, it’s good for UK plc too.

Let’s be clear: CCS also presents real opportunities for the UK. Independent analysis suggests export opportunities for the British economy could reach £3-to-10 billion a year by the late 2020s. Along with other carbon abatement technologies, CCS could sustain 70,000 to 100,000 jobs by 2030.

We can seize first-mover advantage. That is precisely why we in DECC could persuade the Treasury to commit up to £1 billon for the first large-scale CCS demonstrator, and is why government is committed to continuing public sector investment in an additional three projects. And we’re doing everything we can to build on the UK’s deep foundations in CCS research.

The research councils are looking to establish a UK CCS Centre by autumn this year. The centre will help better represent and promote the world-class CCS research of our universities - the best in Europe and third best globally.

And I hope it will also increase the interaction between academia and industry. This interaction will be critical to reduce costs, reduce risks and develop new technologies. All of us here were brought up on a long list of British inventions that didn’t go on to commercial success. I am determined that CCS is not another almost ran.

The Government is also committed to ensuring that the platform of demonstration in the UK supports the path to wider deployment.

We will make sure that the experience and knowledge from the first large-scale exemplars is shared widely by sharing knowledge with the rest of the world, so that projects and governments can learn from each other. Learning by doing, but first and foremost here in the UK.

I am also pleased to confirm that a key platform will be the DECC CCS conference, to be held on 22nd November. We aim to build on the success of last year’s event and provide a chance to hear the latest from the Office of CCS and others, on their activities. I very much look forward to seeing some of you there.

Let me leave you with one final thought: two miles downriver, Battersea Power Station still stands - an irreplaceable part of London’s character. For many years it was the image of our industrial success and engineering excellence.

When it was first proposed, concerns about sulphur emissions worried Londoners, not least those noble Lords who are our hosts today.

As a result, Battersea was one of the first power stations in the world to use ‘scrubbers’ to wash flue gases. Faced with a technical challenge driven by environmental concerns, British ingenuity came to the fore then - just as it will today.

I said earlier that you are the people that will deliver our clean energy future, and I believe it.

The CCS association has made a vital contribution to the development of CCS policy, and the work to promote delivery both at home and abroad. I look forward to working closely with you. Thank you very much.

Published 22 June 2011