A U.K. plan to invest in new gas- fired power plants over the next 20 years is incompatible with legally binding carbon targets, the government’s independent climate-change adviser said.
An expansion of gas-fueled power generation without carbon- capture equipment would breach the Climate Change Act, which sets caps on U.K. emissions as well as a 2050 target, the Committee on Climate Change wrote to Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
Britain is seeking to balance demand for cheaper power against a goal to lower pollution from fossil fuels. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has pushed for natural gas to remain central to U.K. energy supply and in July won Davey’s support for a review of gas policies later this year aimed at bolstering investment in the industry.
“The apparently ambivalent position of the government about whether it is trying to build a low-carbon or a gas-based power system weakens the signal provided by carbon budgets to investors,” the panel said in the letter today, signed by committee chairman Lord Deben, among others. The U.K. currently gets about 30 percent of its power from gas-fired plants.
The committee urged the government, which is overhauling the electricity market, to introduce a target to cut the carbon intensity of power generation to about 50 grams of carbon dioxide a kilowatt-hour by 2030, from a proposed 450 grams. A draft power reform bill was published in May with the aim of attracting investors to build wind farms, nuclear reactors and power stations fitted with carbon-capture equipment.
“We are currently considering a 2030 electricity decarbonization target but our existing plans are consistent with significant decarbonization of the power sector,” Davey said in a response to the letter.
“After 2030 we expect that gas will only be used as backup, or fitted with carbon capture and storage,” he said. A mix of technologies including gas is needed to replace Britain’s fleet of power stations, a fifth of which are slated to close in the next decade, he said.
Britain is promoting carbon capture, which siphons off CO2 emissions from power plants and factories and pumps it underground for permanent storage, with a 1 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) funding competition. The technology is yet to be fully installed at a power station on a large scale.
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