Gas ‘cannot bridge the gap to low-carbon’ without CCS; government strategies ‘at odds’, says UKERC

Without carbon capture and storage (CCS) gas cannot act as a ‘bridging’ technology to meet 2050 greenhouse gas targets. Instead, it must be phased out over the next 35 years and largely removed by 2050, according to new modeling by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

The authors say, “This represents a major challenge in relation to the decarbonisation of domestic heat and potentially undermines the economic logic of investing in new CCGT gas power generation capacity.”

The message is clear, researchers said: if coal-fired generation is shut down by 2025 government “must think very carefully” about how to replace it. The role of CCS is fundamental. Building more gas generation may provide “some short term gains in reducing emissions” but it may not be the most cost-effective way to achieve that and without CCS “it may well compromise the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions”.

The researchers used two different models to examine different scenarios for the role of gas out to 2050.

They had four main conclusions:

  • Gas can act as a ‘stop-gap’ for a few years (2015-2020) while lower carbon sources come onstream, but not as a bridge out to 2050.
  • Government’s decision to withdraw support from CCS is at odds with its support for gas. Without CCS gas use must fall to 10% of current levels to meet decarbonsiation targets.
  • With or without CCS future gas-fired plant will have to operate on very low load factors, if they are to be built. “Such considerations may be behind Amber Rudd’s acknowledgement in her recent announcement that new gas-fired power stations will need subsidy in the form of assurance of future returns,” the authors said.
  • Finally, the reports finds that in some scenarios there is significant opportunity to use gas – in one option to produce hydrogen for heating and transport. But using that option requires CCS to meet emissions targets.

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