The UK Government has been warned it will breach the Climate Change Act if it goes ahead with plans for more investment in gas.
The concern from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) follows Chancellor George Osborne’s declaration earlier this year that gas will be the UK’s number one energy source while last week he gave an £80 million tax break to firms in the North Sea for developing brownfield sites.
In an open letter to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, the Committee said: “We are writing to express the great concern of the Committee on Climate Change about the recent Government statement ‘that it sees gas as continuing to play an important role in the energy mix well into and beyond 2030…[not] restricted to providing back up to renewables’.
“Extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity (i.e. without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)) in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets… Unabated gas-fired generation could therefore not form the basis for Government policy, given the need under the Climate Change Act to set policies to meet carbon budgets and the 2050 target.”
The CCC also criticises the “apparently ambivalent position of the Government about whether it is trying to build a low-carbon or a gas-based power system”, warning it has become clear that current policy uncertainty has created a “very poor” investment climate.
The letter puts the CCC into direct conflict with the Chancellor’s move to increase support for gas in the Energy Bill. Earlier this year in a leaked letter to Ed Davey, George Osborne suggested giving gas a “clear, strong signal” for it to play “a core part of our electricity generation to at least 2030 – not just providing back-up for wind plant or peaking capacity”.
The CCC recommends the Government set a carbon intensity target of 50g of carbon dioxide per kWh for the electricity sector for 2030 by getting rid of coal and gas-fired plants without CCS technology. It also suggests achieving the goal by using 40% nuclear, 40% renewables, 15% CCS and around 5% gas-fired generation in the UK’s energy mix.