15 September 2010

S3M-6923 Hunterston Power Station (Carbon Capture)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 15 September 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]
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Hunterston Power Station (Carbon Capture)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6923, in the name of Ross Finnie, on Hunterston—not the way forward for carbon capture. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the lodging of the application by Peel Energy Ltd to build a 1,600 megawatt coal-fired power station at Hunterston, North Ayrshire; understands that, initially, the power station is to have 400 megawatt of its gross output (300 megawatt net) processed through carbon capture and storage technology, which would leave 75% to 80% of the plant's CO2 emissions unabated for an indeterminate length of time; considers that these unabated emissions, which could amount to up to some four million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum, are incompatible with the climate change targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and accordingly believes that the development of carbon capture and storage technology should be restricted to existing coal-fired stations.

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The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

I join others in thanking Ross Finnie for the opportunity to debate the proposal. I congratulate him, Kenny Gibson and Annabel Goldie on their effective representation of their constituents' views. I think that I have mentioned every member who has a constituency interest.

As members know, formally it is inappropriate for me to discuss the specifics of an active application such as that for Hunterston, which is subject to statutory consultation and consent procedures. To do so could be seen as pre-empting or prejudging any decision that is yet to be made by my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism. Notwithstanding that, the debate and all members' speeches will be published tomorrow, so they can help to inform decisions, whether by a council or a minister.

Gil Paterson (West of Scotland) (SNP): Can you comment on generating capacity in Scotland, for Scotland? We should not be having this debate, because any new capacity in Scotland would be for export.

Stewart Stevenson: I will restrict my comments on the issue. Without drawing any particular inference for any current planning applications, I noted Willie Coffey's point that we should not generate electricity in a carbon-intensive way simply to export it.

Decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2030 is a vital prerequisite for meeting our 2050 target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions. The roll-out of CCS has a key part to play in meeting that important target. However, that point is qualified by how we count the numbers for our 42 per cent target, which come from the operation of the European Union emissions trading scheme. We already know what those numbers will be, and they are unrelated to what we do in the real world. That is why it is important that we continue to pressure the EU to increase its target, so that our numbers benefit from the work that we are doing on the ground to reduce the CO2 from our energy generation.

Ross Finnie pointed to errors in his motion. None of us who have participated in tonight's debate will hold those against him.

Reference has been made to the demonstrator and the decision that we expect in May next year. It is worrying to read in The Guardian the reports to which other members have referred. I hope that Ross Finnie and other Liberals will use their power to influence ministers at UK level to ensure that the £1 billion that was previously promised for the demonstrator remains available, because that will be a very important matter.

There was a bit of talk about sites of special scientific interest. I think that it is impossible for an SSSI's status to be changed while there is a planning application that affects it. I make that point based on recollection—it is not in my brief. If members care to write to me, I will be happy to provide them with the formal position.

Importantly, Kenny Gibson pointed to the fact that we must consider the use of gas. We have a successful gas-generation station at Peterhead and there are welcome indications that CCS for gas may be back on the agenda. The member also pointed to the fact that, currently, CCS is a rather inefficient way of using energy: for every tonne that is used to create energy, a tonne is expended to generate energy to capture the resulting CO2. That is an interesting point.

Like other members, Lewis Macdonald said that there is potential for 100 per cent carbon capture in the future. That will be one of the tools that will be available in our inventory to reduce carbon emissions from energy production. Annabel Goldie made the same point, indicated that the Conservatives support clean coal and welcomed the road map that the Government has published.

Both Liam McArthur and Patrick Harvie showed scepticism about whether CCS will ultimately deliver. That is a perfectly reasonable point to make, because none of us yet knows whether it will. That is why it is important that we move forward with a demonstrator.

It is important that we continue to work with the UK Government, because energy is devolved to the Scottish Parliament only to a limited extent. In particular, we should look at how the CCS levy may touch on devolved powers, to ensure that Scotland-based projects benefit and are not merely contributors. We are confident that Scotland stands to benefit from funding from the new EU new entrant reserve allocation, which will begin in 2010.

We are driving forward academic research in CCS technologies with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish centre for carbon capture and storage. We are working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and other European environment agencies to exchange information. And we are partnering the Scottish European Green Energy Centre to secure funding for several EU-funded research and development initiatives.

It is currently unlikely that Scotland can meet its energy needs for some years to come without some form of thermal generation. We of course expect good penetration from renewables over the next decade, although intermittency issues remain with regard to a variety of renewable energy sources. Therefore, retrofitting our existing plants with CCS will be an important part of the way forward, and we should not lose focus on that.

We recognise the challenges that lie ahead for CCS, but the opportunities for breaking new ground are considerable. We are committed to placing Scotland at the forefront of the development and deployment of CCS. That gives us a climate change benefit and it creates a commercial and economic opportunity for us. We want Scotland-based companies and researchers to be in a leading position to benefit from the multibillion-pound worldwide market. We want to promote the North Sea as Europe's principal CO2 storage hub—noting the caveats that Patrick Harvie raised. We also want there to be large-scale demonstration projects in Scotland, thereby ensuring that we secure the ancillary and research and development services here in Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:51.

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