The Royal Academy of Engineering has welcomed the Government’s decision to require any new coal station to include carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology from the outset. The Academy has said on a number of occasions that CCS is essential if we are to drive towards a more sustainable global energy system and this is a very positive move in terms of both climate change and the UK energy industry.

Dr Sue Ion OBE FREng, said: “It's still early enough for the UK to gain a real foothold in carbon capture and storage technology if we get on with it. If CCS proves successful, it has the potential to be applied worldwide and achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions. Now is the time for the UK to realise this opportunity.”

Until now, CCS has only been demonstrated at large scale with CO2 separated from natural gas, not from coal. There are two important development stages – to demonstrate that the technology is possible with a coal-fired station and then to design and build a full-scale plant. The three additional demonstration plants announced by the Government will go a long way towards proving the viability of the various aspects of CCS. However, the technology demonstrators planned are likely to cover only a fraction of the total CO2 produced in the new stations so it is important to move quickly from demonstrator to full-scale plants.

Roger Kemp FREng, Professor of Engineering at the University of Lancaster voiced concern about timescales, saying:: “The announcement commits to ‘full scale retrofit of CCS within five years of the technology being independently judged as technically and commercially proven…’ This feels like an indeterminate get-out, a bit like the tests proposed for joining the Euro. Unless the price of carbon increases dramatically, it is unlikely that there will be a commercial case for retrofit – particularly for the first few installations when companies are still on the learning curve. Does this mean that the technology will not be ‘commercially proven’ and so need not be installed?”

Full details of the funding mechanism are needed. The demonstration plants will require the incentivisation of major investment based on a clear, consistent and predictable picture over the lifetime of the station.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0636