Scottish Government Climate Change Bill - Revised Target for 2045

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Climate Change action

Published: 02 May 2019 00:01

Scotland will go greener, faster with world-leading targets.

Scotland will stop contributing to climate change within a generation under new, tougher climate change proposals.

Amendments to the Climate Change Bill have been lodged to set a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

The existing targets proposed in the Bill were already world-leading. In response to calls from young people, scientists and businesses across the country, Scottish Ministers have adopted the advice of independent experts, the UK Climate Change Committee.

This means that in addition to the net-zero target for 2045, Scotland will reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 and 90% by 2040 – the most ambitious statutory targets in the world for these years.

The Committee’s recommended targets for Scotland are contingent on the UK adopting a net-zero greenhouse gas emission target for 2050.

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. Having received independent, expert advice that even higher targets are now possible, and given the urgency required on this issue, I have acted immediately to set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for 2045 which will see Scotland become carbon neutral by 2040.

“I have been consistently clear that our targets must be ambitious, credible and responsible. We must take an evidence-based approach and balance our climate, economic and social responsibilities. We have already halved greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland while growing the economy, so we know we can do it. I am committed to meeting the most ambitious targets possible, and doing so while continuing to build an inclusive and fair economy.

“Every single one of us now needs to take more action – not just the Scottish Government but also all businesses, schools, communities, individuals and organisations. The UK Government must also act.

“The Committee on Climate Change say that Scotland’s ability to meet these world-leading targets is contingent on the UK Government also accepting their advice and using the relevant policy levers that remain reserved. As such, I call on the UK Government to follow our lead, accept the Committee’s advice, and work with us to achieve this goal.

“We can, and we must, end our contribution to climate change. I invite everyone to accept the advice we’ve received and work with us in a just and fair transition to a net-zero economy.”


Mass VPP rollout could save £32 billion worth of network upgrades, claims project consortium

Image: Moixa.

Image: Moixa.

Furthermore, the project holds the potential to cut domestic energy costs and slash emissions.

The Smart Local Energy System (SLES) project in Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea, first unveiled earlier this month, will establish a VPP aggregating domestic solar and battery storage, electric vehicle chargers, a marine source heat pump, a grid-scale battery and air source heat pumps.

The operational capacities and benefits of those technologies will be blended together using VPP software developed by battery storage firm Moixa under the three-year project aimed at showcasing its potential.

Moixa and other consortium partners on the project, including Flexitricity, PassivSystems, Connected Energy and Flexisolar, have claimed that not only could it cut energy costs by as much as 10%, but a nationwide rollout of the technology could offset infrastructure upgrades worth as much as £32 billion by 2035.

Chris Wright, chief technology officer at Moixa, said the project would showcase UK expertise in an emerging global smart grid market.

“This project will show how solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles at home and in the workplace can play a vital role in creating a smart, low-carbon, energy system, cutting energy bills, saving the country billions and helping to meet our climate targets.”

The first step of the project will see £7.2 million of its budget used to create a VPP with around 2MW of capacity, becoming the first in the UK to use both batteries from different manufacturers and electric vehicles.

Solar panels and batteries will be installed in 250 council homes in Worthing and Shoreham, coupled with 100 schools and council buildings, from Autumn this year to combine a further 4MW of generation and 4.2MWh of battery storage. Installations of strategically-placed EV chargers will follow from early next year.

The GridShare platform is to use machine learning and AI technologies to tailor their performance and maximise savings, which is expected to boost savings on home energy bills to around 40%.

More than 1MW of spare capacity from those installations will be aggregated using Moixa’s GridShare platform and entered into flexibility markets, before an additional 1MW of capacity is added as soon as electric vehicles are fully integrated.

Once all of the technologies are deployed, the VPP will boast 7.65MW of generation and 17MW of storage capacity, which will be aggregated and traded by Flexitricity, with Moixa also retaining the right to trade its own flexibility directly.

Steve Read, West Sussex County Council’s director of Energy, Waste and Environment, said: “The lessons we learn will help the government to plan ahead and adapt our national energy system to the fundamental changes taking place. These include the growth in renewable energy supply, increasing demand for energy from electric vehicles and other innovations, and the challenge of balancing energy supply and demand.”


Origami Energy scores hattrick of flexibility, energy trading pilot projects

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Origami Energy is to partner DNOs Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and SP Energy Networks (SPEN) for three separate trials on flexibility and peer-to-peer trading.

Alongside the previously-announced Project LEO, Origami is also working with Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) on project TRANSITION.

The project will focus on progressing the UK’s Smart Systems and Flexibility plan, testing market models for the trading of flexible network services and creating an interface to facilitate markets and release capacity.

This isn’t the first time Origami has worked with SSE, having partnered the utility's business supply unit for the launch of a virtual power plant in 2018.

A third project, FUSION, will be delivered by SPEN and Origami. The £6 million project is to explore commoditised local demand-side flexibility through a market based on the Universal Smart Energy Framework.

All three trials will use Origami’s technology platform to pilot new business models that allow energy trading, flexibility and aggregation.

The projects come as DNOs are looking to transition towards DSOs, with a more active role in managing local energy production and use. Investments and trials into flexibility are becoming increasingly common, with Western Power Distribution opening a tender window for flexibility last month, SSEN partnering with Piclo for its flexibility platform and UKPN pushing £12 million of funding into flexibility services.

Peter Bance, chief executive of Origami, said the technologies and competencies Origami is developing are “pivotal” to enabling “ground-breaking, real-world trials” that inform the future of local energy systems.

“Such energy systems, which balance local demand with local supply, are becoming globally relevant as grid operators around the world look to unlock the value of local network flexibility.

“Ultimately, the new generation of DSOs will be tasked with delivering a more reliable, available and affordable low-carbon energy supply. By developing our platform for local energy markets, we will ensure that everyone benefits from a smarter, more flexible energy system,” Bance added.


5 Major UK Businesses Powered by Renewable Energy

Electricity generation from renewable energy has been growing steadily (if not quickly) over the last 10 years. In fact, since 2009, it’s grown by across the United Kingdom and in Scotland, renewables beat all other sources including coal, oil, gas and nuclear to be the most used.

Of course, this is a step in the right direction as fossil fuels aren’t just depleting, they’re releasing greenhouse gasses that are harming our planet in devastating ways. (In case you haven’t heard, climate change is real).

Fortunately, businesses – which, by the way, consume a whopping 56% of the UK’s energy – are leading the way by going green using onshore and offshore wind, solar, hydro and bio energy to meet their electricity needs.

The Benefits of Going Green

While the main benefit of going green is a reduced carbon footprint, there are plenty of other incentives for businesses to clean up their act in terms of energy consumption.

To start, consumers prefer products made using renewable energy. It’s simple supply and demand.

According to a study conducted by analysts Kantar Millward Brown on behalf of Ørsted, 73% of UK consumers support businesses partly powered by renewable energy and 60% revealed a preference towards products with a green message on the label. It’s information like this – supported by the economic growth of sustainable products from companies like Ikea and Unilever – that drove global brewers Anheuser-Busch to place a renewable electricity label on all Budweisers brewed using 100% renewable energy.

But, for strategic business owners, it’s not just about using sustainability as a ploy for differentiation. There have to be financial incentives, too. Reduced operational costs are just one of those financial incentives.

With the cost of renewable energy decreasing 23% for onshore wind and 73% for solar since 2010, The International Renewable Energy Agency predicts that by 2020, these clean sources will be cheaper than fossil fuels. The UK government has also gotten involved to help drive costs down in order to increase uptake by creating schemes including Feed-In Tariffs and The Renewable Heat Incentive.

So, which UK businesses are leading the way towards a greener future?

Photo credit: Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

5 UK Businesses Powered by Renewable Energy

As a business owner, it can be difficult to make a leap into the unknown. Perhaps the best way to alleviate some of that apprehension is to lead by example.

Here are 5 UK businesses that are taking renewable energy seriously.

Sainsbury’s

Over the last several years, Sainsbury’s has revealed a number of initiatives in support of clean energy. Back in 2012, they partnered with UK energy company E.ON to deliver 100 MW of renewable energy to its stores. The goal? To reduce their absolute operational carbon emissions 20-30% by 2020.

Their commitment to sustainability persists as last year they announced that they’ll be deploying efficient, long-lasting LED lights in more than 450 stores. They’ve also invested in new aerofoil technology for in-store fridges.

Chase Distillery

While you may not have heard of Chase Distillery, you’re likely familiar with the founder’s other brand, Tyrells. And, where Tyrells might falling short in terms of sustainability when compared to competitors, Chase Distillery is leading the way. In fact, the distillery (specialising in gin and vodka) is on its way to being totally ‘off grid’.

How? Not how you’d expect…

Instead of using solar or wind energy, the drinks supplier is using the steam produced from putting the prunings of 200-year-old apple orchards in a boiler.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, has joined giants like Google and Microsoft as a member of the climate group RE100 which is committed to 100% renewable energy.

With a target of 25pc by 2020, the airport has already surpassed their goal as they became one of the first airports in the world to achieve 100pc carbon neutrality.

Scottish Power

After leaving carbon generation behind in 2018, Scottish Power is set to become the first major UK energy company to switch to completely clean energy. And, with all of its coal plants closed and the company’s final gas and hydro stations sold, they have no choice but to deliver on their promises.

So, what exactly have they promised? To double its clean energy sources and deliver cleaner and cheaper energy for Brits.

Virgin Group

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin have embraced renewable energy for years and it’s evident through the group’s investments.

Back in 2016, Virgin purchased the BMR Jamaican Wind Farm and more recently, they invested in M-Kopa, an off-grid solar company in Africa. Virgin has also made a point to set an example with its trains and aircrafts. Not only has Virgin Atlantic managed to cut carbon emissions by 20% over the last decade, Virgin Trains have pledged to reduce CO2 emission by 4% at each of their stations.

How Your Business Can Join The Revolution

With enough space you can become a net-provider to the energy grid by installing solar panels or wind turbines on your land, connecting the equipment with specific renewable energy cables to the wider grid.

Not enough room for that? Aim to be energy self-sufficient by installing panels or smaller scale installations on your building roof or in the car park, saving money on your annual energy bills in the process.

For those business owners who feel limited by space or lease terms, you can always switch to a green energy supplier at around the same cost as other, non-renewable suppliers. You can find a full list of green energy supplies in the UK here.

This post is supported by Eland Cables; image by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash


Despite good progress, 100 per cent low-carbon energy is still a long way off for the UK

The UK has made huge progress in decarbonising its energy mix, but the hard work has just begun, according to Durham University's Andrew Crossland and Jon Gluyas

In the past ten years the UK's electricity mix has changed dramatically. Coal's contribution has dropped from 40 per cent to six per cent. Wind, solar power and hydroelectric plants now generate more electricity than nuclear power stations, thanks to rapid growth. Demand for electricity has also fallen, reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuels. Thanks to these three factors, the carbon intensity of Britain's electricity has almost halved, from more than 500g of CO2 per kilowatt-hour in 2006 to less than 270g in 2018.

Progress has been so quick that a fully low-carbon power sector in Britain has transformed from a faint pipedream into a real possibility, according to the CEO of one of the UK's 'big six' energy companies. Indeed, the National Grid now expects to be able to operate a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025.

Already approaching that milestone on windy, sunny days, the country's first hours of 100 per cent low-carbon electricity could soon be here - but staying at 100 per cent throughout the year will be much more difficult to achieve. So what does the journey to decarbonisation look like?

Headwinds to decarbonisation

To paint the UK's energy future, it is important to first understand how electricity is generated today. The graph below is a visualisation of British electricity generation in October 2018. Periods of strong wind (in red) and sun (yellow) combined with nuclear power (green) meant that on some days, more than 75 per cent of electricity came from low-carbon sources. With solar prices still decreasing and the government recently agreeing a major deal for offshore wind to produce one-third of the UK's power by 2030, the country's first hours of low-carbon power could arrive within the next five years.

British electricity generation in October 2018 British electricity generation in October 2018 | Credit: Dr Andrew Crossland/MyGridGB

But the graph also highlights the other side to the UK's energy story. When the wind is weak and the skies dark, low-carbon sources provide less than 25 per cent of electricity generation. On average, low-carbon technologies accounted for more than 45 per cent of British electricity in 2018 - and almost half of that came from nuclear plants. Saying goodbye to fossil fuels quickly might mean accepting that the ever-controversial form of energy will play some role in the UK's electricity mix in the medium term.

Even with the aid of nuclear power, electricity consumption in Britain is set to increase dramatically in the coming decade. As electric cars continue their journey to the mainstream, traditional transport fuels will be replaced by electricity. The yearly energy demand of transport fuels is currently more than double the UK's national electricity consumption.

Similarly, plans to decarbonise the UK's heat generation - currently 66 per cent is generated by gas - by converting to electric heating systems will also place huge pressures on demand. During winter months, heat can consume more than three times the daily energy demands of electricity - and over a full annual cycle it constitutes 50 per cent of total energy demand. Collectively, these factors will move the goalposts for 100 per cent low-carbon electricity further and further away.

Powering through

While the huge efficiency increase of electric vehicles over internal combustion engines should cushion the impact of electric vehicles on the UK's energy future, the country will need to diversify its energy mix as much as possible to bring those goalposts back into sight. This means continued growth in wind, solar, hydro, biomass, energy efficiency and energy storage to carry the country through the calm, grey days. Precisely how much growth is needed depends exactly on the future of energy demand, but to give some perspective of scale, more than 80 per cent of the total UK energy supply, including electricity, land transport and heat, still comes from fossil fuels. The tens of billions of pounds already invested in low-carbon electricity is just the start of the UK's journey to decarbonised energy.

It also means seeking alternative, non-electric methods to replace fossil fuels in heat generation. Capturing waste heat from industrial processes, geothermal heat from the ground and heat extracted from water bodies could all limit demands on the electricity sector and make it easier to achieve more low-carbon heat and power. Southampton already heats much of its city centre geothermally - and many cities can and should follow suit. Recent work published by the BritGeothermal estimates that geothermal energy alone could meet the UK's heat demand for at least 100 years.

Concerted and sustained effort from both government and individuals is required if the UK is to achieve a low-carbon nirvana in heat, transport and power. State support of the renewables industry through ensuring long-term investment security and regulations to create energy-efficient and electricity-generating new homes will be essential in the UK's decarbonisation journey. The UK population will need to consume less energy individually, use energy more efficiently and use their voices and money to support renewable solutions. They will also need to elect representatives with a genuine ambition to decarbonise the country - rather than to commission new coal mines and fracking sites.

Large-scale changes are already in motion. Shell recently stated that it wants to become the world's largest electricity supplier and is among many oil giants investing heavily in renewables. While the need for new forms of energy presents big challenges for the UK it also offers a wealth of opportunities for the current generation to be part of an energy revolution. If the UK embraces the task, it could be joining Costa Rica, New Zealand and Norway as low-carbon powerhouses before the middle of the century. As one specialist at the start of his career and another nearing the end of his, we say bring that challenge on.

Dr Andrew Crossland is an associate fellow at Durham Energy Institute, where Professor Jon Gluyas is the executive director.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Shell Pushes Its Renewable Energy Agenda Forward In The UK

 

 

On December 21, 2017, Royal Dutch Shell announced it was acquiring UK utility and broadband company FirstUtility as part of its plan to expand it business beyond simply producing and selling fossil fuels.  Now that the purchase has been completed, Shell said this week it will rebrand its new subsidiary and switch all of its existing customers electricity from renewable sources, according to a report by Reuters.

Shell renewable energy

In recent days, Shell has expressed its intention of becoming the world’s largest electric utility company while lowering its carbon footprint by 3%. Even if that decrease is minimal, it’s still more than ExxonMobil and the other oil majors are doing.

First Utility, which has around 710,000 energy customers in the UK, will now be known as Shell Energy and joins a small group of energy brands such as Bulb and Octopus Energy that offer all their customers 100% renewable electricity. Shell Energy will offer customers a 3% discount on gasoline and diesel at its large network of service stations. It will also offer discounts on electric vehicle charging.

The company says all of Shell Energy’s electricity will come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels. Some CleanTechnica readers may quibble about whether biofuels should be classified as renewable energy, but it depends on the actual fuels used. Some truly are renewable while others are a cover for fossil fuels repackaged with a green label for the benefit of the gullible. Shell Energy will also continue supplying natural gas to its customers.

“We are building on the disruptive nature of First Utility to give customers something better. We know that renewable electricity is important to them and we are delivering,” Shell Energy Chief Executive Officer Colin Crooks said in a statement. He says it will invest about $2 billion a year in renewables and low carbon businesses as it bets on a rapid growth in demand as the world battles climate change.

Should we all go out and start celebrating in the streets because the renewable energy revolution is now complete? Hardly. There’s still a long way to go and short time to get there, but the trickle of good news is turning into a stream. How long before that stream turns into a river and then becomes a flood? Sooner than you may think.


Carbon capture: Shell, BP, Tata Steel, and Drax join £1m UK advisory group

The CCUS Advisory Group, backed by £1m of funding, includes representatives from Shell, BP, Tata Steel, Drax, and National Grid

Leading players from across the UK's carbon intensive energy, oil, and steel industries have joined together to form a new government-backed advisory group, in a bid to accelerate the development of carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) technology.

The CCUS Advisory Group, which is backed by up to £1m of government and industry support, includes representatives from major corporates such as BP, Shell, Tata Steel, National Grid, Cadent, and Drax, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced yesterday.

CCUS technology is seen as key to decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as cement, steel, and energy production, by potentially capturing and storing or repurposing CO2 emissions generated in the process before they entering the atmosphere.

Carbon capture technology is currently being trialled at Drax's biomass plant in North Yorkshire, in what the energy firm hopes will help pioneer further development in negative emissions technologies.

More broadly, however, CCUS has struggled to take off in the UK, with development costs seen as a major barrier.

As a result, the new industry-led CCUS group has been tasked with addressing these cost concerns by providing expert advice to the government on the financial frameworks needed to underpin investment and growth in the sector.

It will also provide advice on the potential incentives and regulations needed for the development of a UK market in CCUS, in support of the government's ambition, announced in November, to have the UK's first full carbon capture project up and running from the mid-2020s, it added.

The government has also confirmed £170m will go towards developing what it hopes to be the world's first net zero cluster of heavy industrial plants by 2040, with CCUS expected to play a key role. Nevertheless, the funding figure pales in comparison to the £1bn CCS competition which was scrapped by the government in 2015 by then Chancellor George Osborne.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announced the new advisory body yesterday during a meeting of the government's CCUS Council.

"The UK will continue to thrive as a world leader in clean growth technologies like carbon capture through our ambitious modern Industrial Strategy," she said. "The new advisory group will help ensure that we take full advantage of the potential of this emerging industry, with a view to deploying the first CCUS facility in the UK from the mid-2020s."

Among other issues and potential development barriers, the CCUS Advisory Group has also been given a brief to: examine risk allocation and risk management solutions; consider the delivery capabilities need to support deployment of the technology; assess the impacts of competitive pressure to drive cost reduction; and to provide estimated costings for prospective CCUS projects.

Luke Warren, chief executive of the UK's Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), welcomed the new partnership between industry and government, and called for 2019 to be the "year of action" to make sure the UK's first CCUS project is commissioned by the mid-2020s.

"In the year when the government will consider how to achieve net zero emissions, all the evidence points to CCUS being essential if we are to have any hope of reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement," he said. "The establishment of this new Advisory Group shows that government and industry are prepared to work together to make this happen, and the CCSA looks forward to supporting the government's ambition of becoming a world leader in this crucial technology."

In related news, US developer Carbon Engineering yesterday revealed it has raised $68m in a private investment round to help demonstrate and commercialise its carbon dioxide removal technology.

The firm said the funding was the largest investment made into Direct Air Capture, a technology which it claims can suck CO2 directly from the atmosphere at a cost of less than $100 per tonne.


UK's Drax Power Station begins carbon capture project

In a press release on February 7, Britain's energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said, "This innovative technology has the potential to make huge strides in our efforts to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new cutting-edge industry in the UK." The giant Drax power station near Selby in North Yorkshire burns seven million tons of wood chips annually to generate electricity. The company has invested £400,000 in a pilot project that will capture one ton of carbon dioxide a day during the pilot. If everything goes according to plan, the technology could be scaled up to capture 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 - nearly half the country's target says the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering. Drax has already become the largest decarbonization project in Europe after it upgraded two-thirds of its generating units from coal to use biomass.

DRAX Power Station in Drax North Yorkshire.

DRAX Power Station in Drax, North Yorkshire.

Paul Glazzard

C-Capture technology Carbon dioxide is captured at the Drax plant using Leeds-based C-Capture's innovative technology. The company was formed in 2009 as a spin-out from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leeds. The technology is called Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). C-Capture approaches carbon capture and storage (CCS) a little differently than what is being done now. Current practices basically use amines to capture the CO2, holding it in an aqueous solution. The solution is then heated up to 120 degrees Centigrade where the CO2 is returned to its gaseous state, allowing it to be stored. C-Capture uses an amine-free solvent to capture CO2. Once the CO2 has been ‘captured’ it can then be released as a pure stream and transported for safe, long-term storage or used in other manufacturing processes. This innovative technology can also be used for other applications including the capture of CO2 from other large point source emitters, such as cement plants and steel plants.

The Peterhead Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Aberdeenshire UK.

The Peterhead Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Aberdeenshire, UK.

Penn Energy

The pros and cons of CCS The BBC outlines very nicely how Carbon Capture and Storage works: When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood. If you burn that wood, the process doesn't emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere—because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It's called carbon neutral. If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you're actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall. Proponents of CCS argue that we need to do something to get the CO2 out of the atmosphere in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The CO2 can be stored and later used for other purposes. Many scientists are onboard the technology because they say the politicians are not doing enough to limit the effects of a warming planet.

Kemper CCS power plant in Kemper County Mississippi.

Kemper CCS power plant in Kemper County Mississippi.

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The arguments against CCS are also reasonable. Critics argue the technology is too expensive to implement on a large scale for it to be commercially viable. "One way to reduce coal's impact is to capture, compress and bury its emissions—but it's much simpler, cheaper and safer to simply leave the coal in the ground," Simon Holmes à Court, a senior adviser to the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University, wrote in the Guardian. Looking specifically at the Drax project, critics point out the company burns about 7 million metric tons of wood chips - mostly from the southern U.S. to generate six percent of the UK's electricity. While technically, trees are a renewable resource, a large amount of land is needed to renew this resource and harvesting trees also disrupts wildlife that depends on forests. "We must be cautious of technologies that aim to remediate the carbon problem while greatly expanding our impact on the land," Harvard University professor David Keith warned to the BBC.


UK carbon capture project begins

Drax
Image caption The project aims to capture one tonne per day of CO2

The giant Drax power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, has become the first in Europe to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from wood-burning.

Drax burns seven million tonnes of wood chips each year to drive generators to make electricity.

The firm has now begun a pilot project to capture one tonne a day of CO2 from its wood combustion.

The technology effectively turns climate change into reverse on a tiny scale, but it’s controversial.

How does it reverse climate change?

When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood.

If you burn that wood, the process doesn’t emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere - because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It’s called carbon neutral.

If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you’re actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall.

In an ideal world you’d go one step further by creating useful products from the waste CO2.

Why is it needed?

This technology is known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

Many scientists believe it will be needed because they don't trust politicians to curb the CO2 emissions that are over-heating the planet.

They say that unless carbon emissions start falling dramatically, we will overshoot the recommended safety limit of a 1.5C rise in global temperature.

Image caption Drax's is one of several different approaches to carbon capture

Carbon capture sounds smart – why is it controversial?

There are two main reasons for controversy.

First is the impact on the plants and animals living on the huge amount of land needed to grow the trees and plants needed to generate power on a wide scale.

Second is the amount of additional energy needed to capture and store the carbon.

Let’s just take the example of Drax.

The power station generates 6% of the UK’s electricity whilst burning seven million tonnes of wood a year – that’s more wood than is harvested in the whole of Britain. The majority of the supply comes from the US, where forests are expanding as small-scale farmers allow unprofitable land to go back to nature.

Drax says most of its fuel is residue from forest industries – that’s offcuts and unsuitable trees for timber.

A previous BBC investigation found that some of the wood almost certainly also comes from species-rich swamp forests in the southern US.

What if the world wants to generate carbon neutral energy by burning wood?

This is where the numbers get a bit mind-boggling.

One estimate suggests that a staggering amount of land would be required to make BECCS feasible under the Paris climate agreement — perhaps as much as three times the area of India.

Harvard University professor David Keith warned: “We must be cautious of technologies that aim to remediate the carbon problem while greatly expanding our impact on the land.”

That impact will depend on many variables, such as whether the wood is so-called “waste”; whether it comes from plantation forests or natural forests; how its removal from the forest reduces the amount of material that will lock up carbon in the soil; how it’s transported – and more.

How does the carbon capture work?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Drax generates 6% of the UK's electricity

Drax is trialling a new system devised at Leeds university. Most existing carbon capture technologies use a chemical in the amine group.

It is drizzled down through a flue gas chimney, where it absorbs the CO2. A further process separates the CO2 from the amine, which can be re-used.

The Drax experiment is working with a tech spin-off called C-Capture. It uses an organic solvent which it says is less toxic than amine and uses less energy.

It’s one of several products on the market as chemists strive to find new ways of taking CO2 out of the air.

What do people say about the Drax experiment?

Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, admits that its carbon capture pilot is tiny – but says it's an important step towards getting the whole plant capturing its CO2 - and finding a market to use it.

“This is a really important technology,” he told us. “We are definitely going to need it if we want to keep within the 1.5C temperature limit proposed by scientists. "

Almuth Ernsting from the pressure group Biofuelwatch takes the opposite view. “Burning biomass is absolutely the wrong option for so many reasons,” she said. "Forests are vital for the health of the climate so we need to keep them not burn them.

"The Drax experiment is so ridiculously tiny it’s hard to believe it’s not 'greenwash'."

Follow Roger on Twitter.


£24Bn Tax Bill for Decommissioning Oil and Gas Assets in UK Waters

The OGA estimates that the total cost of decommissioning around 320 installations, including offshore platforms, will be between £45 billion and £77 billion. But operators can use decommissioning costs to offset corporation tax they have paid since 2002 and petroleum revenue tax, which is a tax on profits made on oil fields commissioned before 1993. In November 2017, HM Treasury changed tax rules so that companies buying assets could offset decommissioning costs against taxes paid in the past by the operator selling the assets, a change that was intended to make buying and selling assets more viable for operators.

The NAO notes that operators’ expenditure on decommissioning is rising: they have spent more than £1 billion on decommissioning in each year since 2014. In 2016/17, the government paid out more to oil and gas operators in tax reliefs than it received from them in revenues for the first time – a repayment of £290 million.

Revenues recovered in 2017/18 – the Office for Budget Responsibility expects net annual receipts from the oil and gas sector to  rising from £1.2 billion in 2017/18 to £2.4 billion in 2022/23 - but the government’s tax relief payments are increasing as tax revenues fallen due to a combination of lower production rates, a reduction in oil and gas prices and operators incurring high tax-deductible expenditure.