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CCC welcomes Government’s plans for ‘net-zero hub’ of heavy industry, but urges an early target date  

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today welcomes news that the UK Government intends to help establish the UK’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster, backed up with £170 million of funding for research, development and deployment. The cluster is expected to be operational by 2040, however the CCC urges an earlier target date to better align with the ambition of the Climate Change Act.

Cleaning up heavy industry stands as one of the toughest challenges to the achievement of the UK’s climate change targets. Emissions from industry can be especially hard to reduce – a barrier that must be overcome as we consider how the UK might become effectively emissions-free (‘net zero’ emissions).

Decarbonising heavy industry will require a strong framework of Government support, ensuring strategic options are developed. These include carbon capture and storage, the industrial production and use of hydrogen as a low carbon fuel, and improved industrial energy efficiency to enhance the UK’s future competitiveness.

To make best use of the first zero carbon industrial cluster, the Committee has also highlighted the need for:

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. The Government’s plans for a zero carbon hub must be part of a wider programme of CCS deployment. The CCC’s 2018 Progress Report to Parliament recommended that an initial zero carbon CCS cluster should be operational by 2026, enabling 10 MtCO2 to be sequestered each year by 2030, on the path to at least 20 MtCO2 per year in 2035. The Committee recommended the hub should cover both energy generation and industry, with separate approaches to CO2 capture, a new funding mechanism for industrial CCS and some sharing of risks across parties, especially where these reflect future policy uncertainty.
  • Hydrogen deployment. In its recent hydrogen report, the CCC recommended that significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen should be produced at one of the CCS clusters the Committee has recommended Government establish by 2030, and be used in applications that would not require major infrastructure changes (e.g. applications in industry, power generation, injection into the gas network and depot-based transport).
  • Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS). The CCC’s analysis also suggests BECCS could be competitive with other strategies to reduce emissions by 2030. By 2050, between 20 and 65 MtCO2e per year could be sequestered through BECCS in the UK (equivalent to around 15% of current UK CO2e emissions). The Committee has recommended that Government should support the research and development of BECCS technologies in industry. In industrial sectors and processes where BECCS is identified as potentially cost-effective, a phased programme of bioenergy to BECCS should be encouraged. This can sit alongside development of hydrogen or fossil-fuelled CCS in industrial clusters.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change said: “Reducing emissions from heavy industry is vital if the UK is to move towards a zero-carbon economy. I am pleased to see the Government developing a strategy based around net-zero industrial clusters.

“An earlier target date for a zero carbon industrial cluster is achievable and would be a better fit with the UK’s 2050 target. It would also present the kind of long-term vision to commercial investors that will give them confidence to make major commitments in the UK. Heavy industry must be a key part of our clean growth story, not least because it can lead to stronger regional economies and new green collar jobs.”