Energy statement

Further uncertainty over Scottish carbon project

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps: tackling high energy prices

A major emissions project in north east Scotland remained on the backburner today though it could be accelerated under plans announced by the Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Acorn carbon capture scheme in Aberdeenshire was put on a reserve list in 2021 and there had been hopes that it would get the go ahead in Mr Shapps’ Powering Up Britain initiative.

In the published paper he said “there will be an opportunity for further projects to be added to the first two clusters”.

The SNP had warned the UK government against “yet another false dawn” on carbon capture investment.

Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who is Aberdeen South MP, said “the Scottish Acorn project must be funded fully and immediately – not years down the line”. Today he expressed frustration at the further delay and the “complete lack of credible detail on when the Acorn project will be given the green light to progress”.

Mr Flynn had called for funding similar to the US and EU investment, and include matched funding for the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Today’s announcements should have been a defining moment for the UK – a chance to encourage the necessary investment to deploy the renewable energy projects required to safeguard our energy security, cut bills for consumers and meet our net-zero targets. It is unacceptable that they have fallen so far short.

“Nothing announced today comes close to repairing the damage caused by recent policy decisions from the UK Government which have discouraged that investment in clean power projects at the very time the UK needs it most.”

Mr Shapps’ Green finance plan includes backing for the first tranche of new green hydrogen production projects under the £240m Net Zero Hydrogen Fund. These include Statera Energy in Kintore, Aberdeenshire, Octopus Energy in Lanarkshire, Falck Renewables in Ayrshire and Getech in Inverness.

He is opening the fifth round of the scheme to incentivise investment in renewable electricity, and reforming the planning process to enable the building of energy infrastructure, including solar power and offshore wind projects, more quickly.  He also confirmed the launch of Great British Nuclear to support the growth of the nuclear industry.

He announced measures on electric cars, insulation and steps to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels to heat buildings.

There was no mention in this morning’s statement of introducing a cap on the energy profits levy, or windfall tax, which would see the tax fall as oil and gas prices decline.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We are stepping up to power Britain and ensure our energy security in the long term with more affordable, clean energy from Britain, so we can drive down energy prices and grow our economy.

“That’s why we’re driving forward plans to boost renewables, revive nuclear and build new thriving industries like carbon capture, which will in turn create good jobs across the country, provide new opportunities for British businesses at home and abroad, and maintain our world-leading action to reach net zero.”

Mr Shapps said:  “We have seen over the past year what can happen when global energy supplies are disrupted, and a tyrant like [Russian president Vladimir] Putin uses energy as a weapon.  Access to cheap, abundant and reliable energy provide the foundation stone of a thriving economy with our homes and businesses relying on it to deliver our future prosperity.   

“Following our unprecedented cost of living support this winter, which continues, this plan now sets out how we fix this problem in the long term to deliver wholesale UK electricity prices that rank amongst the cheapest in Europe, as we export our green growth expertise to the world.”   

However, Labour claimed the plans were simply “reheated” policies already announced by the Government.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow climate and net zero secretary, said: “What was billed with huge hype as the Government’s ‘green day’ turns out to be a weak and feeble Groundhog Day of re-announcements, reheated policy, and no new investment.

“This confirms once and for all that, after 13 years of failed energy policy, that Britain under the Conservatives will be stuck with higher energy bills, energy insecurity, lost jobs and climate delay.

“These announcements are most notable for their glaring omissions: no removal of the onshore wind ban which is costing families hundreds of pounds on bills , no new investment for energy efficiency which could cut bills and imports, no response to the Inflation Reduction Act which could help Britain win the global race for clean energy jobs.

“This is a Government out of ideas, out of touch and out of time. Only Labour has a mission to make Britain a clean energy superpower with a plan for zero-carbon power by 2030 and GB Energy, our publicly-owned energy company, which will cut energy bills, strengthen our energy security, and create hundreds of thousands of quality jobs across the country.”

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