Thursday, 24 April 2008

Clean coal alliance seeks govt help to fast track CCS

AAP Newswire
Wednesday 16/4/2008

CANBERRA, April 16 AAP - An alliance of environmentalists and the coal industry has called for urgent government intervention to make Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) a commercial reality. The grouping wants the federal government to set a 2020 target for power produced using the low-emission technology and find ways to publicly and privately fund its development. It's proposing that a national task force oversee the work in order to bring commercial power plants using CCS on line a decade earlier than expected.

The alliance comprises WWF Australia, the Climate Institute Australia, the Australian Coal Association (ACA) and mining union the CFMEU. The proposals have come under fire from other green groups, who argue taxpayer funds should not be be used on behalf of polluters to fast track an unproven technology. CCS involves capturing CO2 emissions produced by fossil fuel-fired power plants and injecting them into geological cavities or saline aquifers for long-term storage. Key objectives proposed for the task force include setting up a national regime governing carbon storage by September, identifying storage sites, and planning pipelines and other infrastructure.

Suggested funding includes using revenue from emissions trading permits, tax incentives and accelerated depreciation, expanding public/private partnerships and feed-in tariffs. The alliance is also calling for the government to take on liabilities for demonstration projects and conduct an education campaign about CCS. "Ultimately, commercial deployment for low-emission coal technology, just as for geothermal or solar, will require a big investment by the government," ACA chief executive Ralph Hillman told reporters in Canberra.

The alliance's plan is aimed at achieving a target of 10,000 gigawatt/hour - the equivalent of energy produced by three power stations - from plants using CCS by 2020. "We have around about a 90 per cent chance of beating the challenge of climate change," WWF Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said. "If CCS dropped out it drops down to about a 30 per cent chance." National Generators Forum executive director John Boshier supported the alliance, saying that without additional funding, deployment of CCS would come too late.

Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson welcomed the groups' ideas along with those of other stakeholders, but was non-committal about whether any would be adopted. "We're coming up to budget time when all of those things will be laid on the table, so I'm sure that within the next little while the minister will have some more to say on (CCS)," a spokeswoman for Mr Ferguson said. The government has already committed $500 million to a clean coal initiative. Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said CCS must be explored as one of the options in a strategy to cut emissions.

"There's no doubt that clean coal is a part of it and an expensive part of it. It's a part that's going to require a significant investment," Mr Garrett told ABC Radio. The Australian Greens said the alliance's proposals would undermine the coming Emissions Trading Scheme by contradicting its polluter-pays principle. "Calling for the government to take control of finding carbon dumping sites and carrying liability for leaks, let alone asking for tax incentives and accelerated depreciation for Australia's biggest and richest polluters, is simply untenable," climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said.