Minister defends veto of proposed ‘clean coal’ power station

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A proposed £3bn ‘clean coal’ power station in South Yorkshire that would have created thousands of new jobs may have been vetoed by the Government because the project was too large.

Energy Minister John Hayes said yesterday the Don Valley Power Project at Hatfield, near Doncaster, did not meet the strict criteria laid down by the Government to win funding from its carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition.

Mr Hayes did not specify the exact reason for the controversial decision to deselect Hatfield earlier this month, commenting only that the scheme was “very big”.

The Government has been widely criticised for not including Hatfield on its four-strong shortlist for state funding, despite the project being far more advanced than any other CCS scheme in the country and having been picked out by the EU as the most promising project in Europe.

Labour leader Ed Miliband – the MP for Doncaster North – called the decision to drop Hatfield “perplexing”. The Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, said it was “outrageous”.

Analysts have suggested the scheme may have been vetoed by the Treasury because it is so far advanced it would have required Government funding within the next two years, had it gone ahead. Although Ministers insist they have set aside £1bn of public funds to get CCS projects off the ground, suspicions remain that some in Whitehall want the decision kicked into the long grass.

But Mr Hayes insisted Hatfield had simply failed to meet his department’s criteria when it was choosing which of the eight proposed schemes around the UK to support.

“It is a competitive process,” he said. “We had a very clear evaluation set of criteria, and we very carefully assessed the projects against that selection criteria.

He went on: “Those criteria were applied very rigorously. I made sure that I checked that with my officials. I was very particular about this – was everyone aware of the criteria? Was it applied rigorously? Was everyone tested by the same set of standards? I’m absolutely assured that they were.”

Hatfield, Mr Hayes said, was “a very big project” compared with the other proposals and ultimately “came up short”. But he insisted the Coalition remains dedicated to developing CCS in the UK. “This is incredibly important work because it helps us to maintain gas and coal-fired power stations by capturing carbon and storing it.”