Oct 02 2015

White Rose CCS project down but not out

***UPDATE 18 Apr 2016: ICIS reports that on 14 April 2016 White Rose was refused planning consent, further jeopardising the project.***

***UPDATE 26 November 2015: All UK CCS projects are dealt a severe blow by the UK government’s cancellation of the CCS Commercialisation competition, which would have awarded 1 bn GBP in funding to large-scale CCS demonstrations.***

The future of the UK’s White Rose CCS project is in doubt, and with it up to 300 M EUR of NER300 money. Drax, one of the consortium of three companies developing the project, announced that it would not join its partners in proceeding to the investment phase.

Speaking on the UK radio show, The Today Programme, Drax CEO Dorothy Thompson said she “thought [White Rose] was a really good project and important technology”, but Drax lacks the cash to construct. “We’re in a different financial situation today than we were two years when we decided to invest in the [White Rose] project. There have been some changes to the government’s renewable policy but there have also been dramatic movements in the commodity markets that have greatly reduced our profitability. The government has removed a tax exemption for renewable power sold to industry and we’re the largest generator of renewable power in the UK,” she explained.

The CEO is referring to the climate change levy, which is a tax on UK business energy use (details on OFGEM website — UK electricity market regulator). Businesses could escape the tax by handing in Levy Exemption Certificates covering their energy use. Until 1 August 2015 (when a change in the law came into effect), a renewable energy supplier like Drax could create Levy Exemption Certificates, which it could sell to its customers for a price up to the value of the tax. Drax had warned in July that it expected its revenue to drop by 30 M GBP in 2015 and 60 M GBP in 2016 because of the end of LECs.

Carbon Pulse reported that the other two partners in the White Rose consortium, Alstom and BOC “were committed to completing the project”. Drax, meanwhile, will pursue “rapid decarbonisation with the deployment of the latest biomass technology, which is the most affordable, reliable and fastest way to move away from fossil fuels.”

Bellona, a pro-CCS NGO, said Drax is one of many utilities seeking capacity payments in order to survive. Bellona decries such payments “as a form of blackmail to ‘keep the lights on'” and would prefer to see an electricity market design that would encourage Drax to invest in CCS instead. Its statement is here.

Drax’s press release is here.