Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) has welcomed yesterday’s announcement by the US administration on new rules to significantly curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan will seek to cut CO2 emissions from around 1,600 power plants by 30% by 2030.

The organisation sees the plan as a sign of affirmation in the readiness of carbon capture and storage (CCS). It also suggests, however, that the aspirations of the US appear to put those of the UK in the shade.

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, explained, “That the world’s largest economy has taken this momentous decision marks a turning point in how the country perceives the threat of dangerous climate change. Governments in developed economies must take action to tackle carbon emissions.”

“The proposals also suggest that President Obama’s administration believes the technology needed to abate these emissions – in other words, carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is ready to build and operate. This is in sharp contrast to the UK Government, which is playing a ‘stop-start’ game with its CCS Commercialisation Programme and is yet to make any final investment decision on whether to back two full-chain CCS demonstration projects.”

“This is in sharp contrast to the UK Government, which is playing a ‘stop-start’ game with its CCS Commercialisation Programme and is yet to make any final investment decision on whether to back two full-chain CCS demonstration projects”

Hazeldine continued to highlight the contrasts between US and UK approaches to emissions reductions, adding, “The EPA is using regulatory instruments to drive progress on CCS, and emissions reductions from existing power plants. Here in the UK, the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) legislated in the 2013 Energy Act requires CCS on any new coal-fired power station – but the government failed to apply it to existing power stations or emissions from gas-fired power generation.”

“These new US rules show that an emissions performance standard can increase pressure on existing sources of emissions in the coming years. The UK could likewise use existing tools such as EPS to greatly accelerate progress on CCS construction and operation.”

Contrary to arguments raised by critics that the new US rules will cause power plants to close and electricity prices to rise, the UK Government’s Select Committee on CCS, in a report published last month, said that developing CCS technology would reduce wholesale electricity costs in 2030 by 20% – and the Energy Technologies Institute has said CCS will halve the economy-wide cost of delivering low-carbon power by 2050.