Claims Longannet CSS was sabotaged to pay for projects south of the border

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
The Scottish National Party has accused the UK government of deliberately sabotaging the world leading Longannet CSS project, and that London was motivated by a desire to use the money in England instead.
 
The SNP claims follow the announcement by the UK coalition of plans to divert the £1 billion Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fund, originally earmarked for Longannet, in order to pay for infrastructure projects south of the border.

The shock announcement that the money is to be spent in England was made by Scottish Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander.  The UK Treasury Chief revealed the plans in a radio interview earlier today.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Mr Alexander said: “We announced a few weeks ago that the negotiations on CCS were not successful on the programme that we being discussed…We’re launching a new competition to provide £1bn for CCS but that competition, obviously, is going to take longer, so much of the money that we’d allocated to spend in this Parliament we’ve now reallocated to different sorts of projects.”

The announcement of yet another competition follows on from an earlier contest that saw Longannet emerge as the clear winner.  Scottish Power’s 2400 MW coal-fired power station in Fife had been the last one standing in the UK government’s long-running £1 billion CCS demonstration programme competition.

However in October the Longannet project was scrapped after Westminster claimed technical problems and refused to commit the necessary funds – these reasons were challenged by industry experts.

UK Ministers subsequently promised that the billion pounds would be ring-fenced for the new carbon capture competition – with Peterhead widely understood to be the strongest candidate.

Today’s announcement stunned the CCS industry, which is now seeking urgent reassurances as to how much of the £1bn will be redirected.

Jeff Chapman, head of the CCS Association  said: “This has come as a complete surprise,”

Mr Chapman added: “some of the money will be needed before the end of the parliament – it is unlikely we’d be building anything at that stage, but we would need to see some of the money committed”.

Friends of the Earth’s Craig Bennett accused the UK coalition of mishandling the proposed CCS project, and said that funding taken from CCS should at least go to other green projects.

Mr Bennet said: “First and foremost you have to ask why the CCS project has been delayed again. Successive governments have failed to move fast enough to demonstrate this technology, but Alexander seems to suggest the delay is nothing to do with the government,”.

The SNP’s Energy spokesman Mike Weir called for the UK government to clarify their position on CCS and argued that we need progress now.

Mr Weir said:

“Danny Alexander’s comments have blindsided the industry and we need immediate clarity from the Treasury over the UK government’s commitment to invest in carbon capture and storage.  The concerns raised by the Chief Secretary’s shock announcement are two-fold for Scotland.

“First, that the Treasury’s removal of the billion pound investment in carbon capture at Longannet was driven all along by plans to divert the money to fund capital projects south of the Border – in which case Danny Alexander has a great deal of explaining to do.

“And second, that any prospect of investing in the carbon capture project at Peterhead has been kicked into the long grass, beyond the term of this Westminster parliament – in which case Danny Alexander also has a great deal of explaining to do.  Last month, the UK Government promised that the billion pounds would be retained for carbon capture – but that promise has been broken.

“It is clear that Scotland has come off second best – yet again.  Pulling investment from carbon capture in Scotland to fund projects south of the Border is not an alternative economic plan – it is more of the same from the London Treasury, which is grabbing a record £13.4 billion of North Sea revenues this year, and short-changing Scotland over carbon capture.”

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.

Mr Weir added:

“The CCS project at Peterhead has already been sabotaged once, by the last Labour Government in 2007, and Longannet was sabotaged by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition last month – Scotland’s carbon capture potential must not be scuppered for a third time.

“Scotland has some of Europe’s largest carbon storage reserves in our North Sea oil and gas fields combined with the expertise on how to access them.  And carbon capture investment can also be a key driver of economic recovery in Scotland.  For the sake of both the environment and the economy, we need progress now.

“Building a greener future is central to our success and the promise of carbon capture and storage incentives is welcome, but enough time has already been wasted. Danny Alexander needs to tell us what his Treasury raid on this fund means for the future of carbon capture in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is showing that we have what it takes to become the pre-eminent location for clean energy research, development and delivery in Europe – the UK Government needs to stop mishandling Scotland’s renewable future.”