All Scottish coal plants to use carbon capture by 2025?

Or so says reuters and a whole host of others repeating the same story. The source is draft ELECTRICITY GENERATION POLICY STATEMENT from the shouty Scottish government. You won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t believe a word of it (I’ve been pretty sniffy before), but lets read on. Oh, but first, why so sniffy? Because, its not economic (if it was, we’d all be doing it, der). Nor do I see any sign of it becoming economic in the next 10-15-20 years. But who knows, I could be wrong. Lets read on…

They say: The Scottish Government’s policy on electricity generation [nd: this is indeed about electricity generation, not all fuel use; there is stuff in there about other use, but I’ll ignore that -W] is that Scotland’s generation mix should deliver: (1) a secure source of electricity supply; (2) at an affordable cost to consumers; (3) which can be largely decarbonised by 2030; (4) and which achieves the greatest possible economic benefit and competitive advantage for Scotland including opportunities for community ownership and community benefits. These are in conflict, how will they balance them? Some bits seem confused (delivering the equivalent of at least 100% of gross electricity consumption from renewables by 2020 as part of a wider, balanced electricity mix, with thermal generation playing an important role though a minimum of 2.5 GW of thermal generation progressively fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS); – this appears to confuse renewables with carbon-neutral; and there should be a particularly strong role for CCS, where Scotland has the natural advantages and resources which could enable it to become a world leader. is pretty weird, too (oh, they mean they have offshore places to dump the CO2. Maybe). Also, they say No Nooks, but I’m not going to rant about that here) but never mind that; what about demonstrating carbon capture and storage (CCS) at commercial scale in Scotland by 2020, with full retrofit across conventional power stations thereafter by 2025-30?

So I’m trying to talk about CCS here, but along the way I find Our analysis demonstrates that while renewable energy will play the predominant role in electricity supply in Scotland by 2020, the Scottish electricity generation mix cannot currently, or in the foreseeable future, operate without baseload and balancing services provided by thermal electricity generation which I find hard to make sense of. Presumably 2020 is within the “foreseeable future”, so by 2020 renewables will be predominant, and yet thermal generation will still be providing the baseload? Don’t understand. I think its just a kind of lead-in para to the CCS discussion, and doesn’t really have any meaning. Some of the CCS is to be propped up by the UK’s stupid “carbon price floor” (just say No! Instead, Carbon Tax Now!). The Scottish Government has never intended to support unabated new coal plants in Scotland, as this would be wholly inconsistent with our climate change objectives. We have made it absolutely clear that any new power station in Scotland must be fitted with a minimum CCS on 300 MWe of its generation from day one of operation. OK, so much for good intentions. But how will the economics work out? Ah, but before that, note If CCS is not proven to be technically or financially viable then we will consider low carbon alternatives which would have an equivalent effect. So, imagine you want to build a new coal fired plant in Scotland (the policy only applies to coal, not oil or gas). You’re going to have to build in CCS. But, CCS may not be viable – the govt itself admits this – but you’re going to have to build it in anyway. I think the answer to that will be that no-one will want to build new coal plants in Scotland. Maybe that is what they want, anyway.

Oh. That seems to be it. I was expecting them to go on an analyse CCS and work out what carbon price they needed to make it viable, and so on. But they don’t. They just re-iterate CCS is a promising low carbon technology that is still in the early stages of realising its large scale development potential. In the event of CCS being found not to be financially or technically viable, consideration will be given to other emission reduction measures. So, I think this is all motherhood-and-apple-pie. They want de-carbonised energy, because people like the idea, and stuff like that. But they aren’t going to trouble themselves about the costs just yet, so this is just politicians making airy gestures. It is meaningless until the hard choices that they are pretending don’t exist come into play.

Refs

* Rabbit pie pushing
* Geoengineering Politics and again.