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HoC Energy and Climate Change Committee - Leaving the EU: implications for UK energy policy

Following on from the EU Referendum in June, the Energy and Climate Change Committee have launched an inquiry into the impact of leaving the EU on UK energy policy. Details of the inquiry can be found on the committee website.

The submission produced by the Geological Society can be found below:

Submitted 14 September 2016

1. The Geological Society (GSL) is the UK’s learned and professional body for geoscience, with about 12,000 Fellows (members) worldwide. The Fellowship encompasses those working in industry, academia, regulatory agencies and government with a broad range of perspectives on policy-relevant science, and the Society is a leading communicator of this science to government bodies, those in education, and other non-technical audiences.

2. The UK’s membership of the EU has played an important role in shaping our energy policy in alignment with the EU’s legally binding climate change targets. We want to raise the importance of Carbon Capture and Storage technology (CCS) and its crucial role in the UK’s energy policy if we are to meet our climate change targets. Our continued reliance on fossil fuels in the short to medium term is now well established and CCS has a key role in bridging the gap of reducing our use of fossil fuels over time and avoiding dangerous climate change. This will require rapid development of CCS. This was echoed by a report released this week from the Parliamentary Advisory Group on CCS which stated that CCS could be responsible for curbing as much as 40% of emissions which could save up to £5bn annually compared with alternative strategies. The Chair of the group Lord Oxburgh warned that the UK would fail to meet its climate targets unless new gas power stations are fitted with CCS.

3. Following the cancellation of the UK Government’s £1bn CCS fund at the end of 2015, the EU is now the sole remaining funding source for CCS commercialisation projects via the New Entrants Reserve programme (NER 300). In 2014, the White Rose CCS project in Yorkshire won €300 million from the NER 300 fund. Since then, as a result of the cancellation of the UK commercialisation competition, it has been announced that the White Rose project will close and there have been no further updates on the future of UK CCS either from the former Department of Energy and Climate Change or the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Additionally, it was announced this week that the UK, on its current course, will fail to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets to provide 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources further evidence that the UK is slipping behind in its commitment to meet decarbonisation targets.

4. The significant storage potential under the North Sea and the UK’s strong research base and history of academic/hydrocarbons industry collaboration makes the UK ideally placed to take a leading role in global development of CCS. Full chain demonstration at scale and development of storage capacity are urgently required. The carbon storage potential of the North Sea is only viable while existing infrastructure is in place (pipelines and platforms). The recent decline in oil price will accelerate the decommissioning of many older, less economic fields which reduces the options for reinjection of CO2 and therefore the window of opportunity is closing. The potential loss of further CCS funding streams puts the CCS programme, and therefore successful meeting of the UK’s decarbonisation targets, at significant risk.

5. The development of CCS technology in the UK has required extensive engagement and research across many different sectors to gain the knowledge needed to understand the complexities and subtleties of rolling out such technology that cuts across so many sectors and areas of expertise. The more time that passes without a new CCS policy, the harder it will be to re-engage with the networks of people and information required to deliver this technology. In the absence of a clear government strategy, access to funding programmes such as the NER300 will become increasingly important to the sector and so we urge continued access to this scheme to be a priority in future negotiations.