Clean Power Plan will target existing coal-fired power plants

Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) welcomes the announcement by the US administration on new rules to significantly curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, released today, will seek to cut CO₂ emissions from around 1,600 power plants by 30% by 2030.

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said:

That the world’s largest economy has taken this momentous decision marks a turning point in how the country perceives the threat of dangerous climate change. Governments in developed economies must take action to tackle carbon emissions.

“The proposals also suggest that President Obama’s administration believes the technology needed to abate these emissions – in other words, carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is ready to build and operate. This is in sharp contrast to the UK Government, which is playing a ‘stop-start’ game with its CCS Commercialisation Programme and is yet to make any final investment decision on whether to back two full-chain CCS demonstration projects.

“The EPA is using regulatory instruments to drive progress on CCS, and emissions reductions from existing power plants. Here in the UK, the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) legislated in the 2013 Energy Act requires CCS on any new coal-fired power station – but the government failed to apply it to existing power stations or emissions from gas-fired power generation. These new US rules show that an emissions performance standard can increase pressure on existing sources of emissions in the coming years. The UK could likewise use existing tools such as EPS to greatly accelerate progress on CCS construction and operation.

“As we continue to point out, the two UK demonstration projects – even if they secure the necessary funding from HM Treasury – are still not enough to allow the UK to meet its carbon targets in the most cost-effective way. The UK will need to begin building at least 30 more such projects by 2025 to avoid incurring extra costs later. This decision by the US administration is an acknowledgement by one of the world’s most powerful nations that CCS is both essential and achievable.”

Contrary to arguments raised by critics that the new US rules will cause power plants to close and electricity prices to rise, the UK Government’s Select Committee on CCS, in a report published last month, said that developing CCS technology would reduce wholesale electricity costs in 2030 by 20% – and the Energy Technologies Institute has said CCS will halve the economy-wide cost of delivering low-carbon power by 2050.

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