EU slammed over funding ‘farce’

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A six-year European Union programme to help build a wave of ‘clean coal’ power stations across the continent has “turned into a farce” with not a single project receiving funding, a scathing new report has found.

A study funded by the Global CCS Institute says the EU has “failed to advance” the new technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS), despite running two separate funding competitions – which took “far too long” and ultimately “failed to deliver”.

Yorkshire is seen as one of the best places in the world to develop CCS, a new technology which involves capturing CO2 emissions from power stations and factories before they are released and burying them beneath the ground.

Ambitious plans have been drawn up for a shared underground pipeline stretching right across the region, collecting emissions from every major power station and industrial sites and transporting them far out to sea to be buried in depleted oil and gas fields beneath the sea bed.

Studies suggest such a network would be the best way of safe-guarding Yorkshire’s long-term industrial future as the crackdown on carbon emissions increases.

The project is dependent, however, on a first CCS scheme getting off the ground. A proposed ‘clean coal’ power station at Hatfield was in line to win the EU’s most recent funding competition but missed out after the UK Government abandoned the project last year.

That decision drew heavy criticism – but the new report is scathing about the EU’s role.

“What should have been an international success story for Europe has turned into a farce,” the report finds. “The previous momentum that favoured CCS has been lost.”

EU leaders set a target in 2007 to have 12 CCS projects up and running across the continent by 2015.

Six years later, work has not begun on even a single one. Its funding competitions failed to find a single project to back, with much of the money melting away or being spent on renewable energy schemes instead.

“What should have been the centrepiece of European CCS efforts had failed to deliver,” the report states. “It had taken EU institutions two years to finalise the programme, and a further two to scrutinise the bidding projects.

“This was far too long for a supposedly urgent process.”

In his Budget in March, Chancellor George Osborne finally gave approval to press ahead with engineering studies for two ‘clean coal’ CCS schemes, including one at Drax in North Yorkshire.

A third and final EU funding round is likely to get underway this year, and the report makes clear this one must deliver.

“We can still secure CCS projects in Europe,” it states. “But we are running out of chances.”

Euro MP Chris Davies, the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on CCS, was equally scathing about the failure of Brussels and Whitehall to deliver.

“Six years after Prime Ministers committed themselves to have up to 12 CCS plants in operation across Europe by 2015, not one has yet been authorised,” he said. “They are, however, being built in Canada and the USA, while this month the Chinese Government issued a call to tender to build a range of CCS demonstration plants. I think it a good bet that the Chinese will steal the technological lead over Europe, and that could prove a missed opportunity for business here.

“The UK remains interested in the idea, and of course I am pleased that Drax is the subject of further studies. But our decision-making process is so slow as to be sclerotic.

“At some point the Government is going to have to bite the bullet, instead of shilly-shallying away from making the financial commitment needed.”