Anger in Scotland as UK Government abandon Longannet Carbon Capture project

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
There is widespread anger after the UK government announced that it would not be funding a major green energy project at a Scottish power station.
 
Secretary of State for Energy, Chris Huhne, has today confirmed that the UK Government will not invest in the Carbon Capture and Storage project at Longannet.

Mr Huhne made the admission in a debate on energy prices in the House of Commons.  His comments followed heavy hints by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier at Prime Ministers Questions.

The Tory/Lib Dem coalition are understood to be refusing to invest a further £300 million needed in order to get the project underway.  Their refusal means that the £1 billion originally set aside for the project will now be invested at another UK plant.

The Lib Dem Minister was immediately challenged by SNP Energy Spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, who said the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were repeating the mistakes of the last Labour Government who squandered an opportunity to develop CCS technology in Peterhead.

Commenting, Mr Weir said:

“The UK Government have repeated cited CCS technology as central to the UK’s green industrial future. To throw away the only feasible CCS project would be a short sighted decision which imperils a potentially huge new industry in Scotland and the long term use of the North Sea’s infrastructure for carbon storage.

“With years of experience in the oil and gas, Scotland has the competitive edge in terms of skills and resources to take new energy technology forward but the Westminster Government is holding us back.

“We’re in the absurd situation of pumping billions of pounds worth of revenue into the UK Treasury while UK ministers refuse to invest in keystone projects like Longannet.

“All of this underlines yet again why Scotland must have the powers of a normal nation to invest in our economic priorities to secure jobs and the long term future of our emerging industries instead of watching them being squandered.”

Scottish Power had planned to use technology to take the harmful emissions from the coal-fired power station and pump it into depleted oil wells under the North Sea.  The aim was to capture up to 90% of the plant’s carbon dioxide.

The decision is the second time in four years that a UK government had declined to fund a carbon storage project in Scotland.  In June 2007, shortly after the SNP won the Holyrood election, the then Labour chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed that the UK government would not be committing to a carbon storage project at Peterhead.

The project at Peterhead would have been the first industrial scale project in the world to combine three separate technologies – hydrogen production, power generation and carbon capture and storage – to generate electricity using hydrogen from natural gas.

SNP MSP for Dunfermline Bill Walker MSP called the decision a “real kick in the teeth” and claimed that it would hit the local economy.

“This is a real kick in the teeth by the Westminster Government, especially to everyone who has been working so hard on this project for years.  Four years ago, the UK Labour government let down the Peterhead project and we lost that investment to Abu Dhabi – the ConDem coalition must not make the same mistakes all over again.

“What makes it even worse is that this announcement could be devastating for the local coal industry.  The workforce at Longannet have worked tirelessly on this ground breaking opportunity that will help tackle climate change and deliver jobs and growth in the process.

“Allowing this project to fall would be a scandalous betrayal of the industry by the Liberal Democrats and their Tory masters.

“The fight now begins to save Longannet and I urge the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to reconsider this disastrous decision.”

Environmentalists have described the UK coalition’s decision as “a major blow”.