Combining carbon capture technology with biomass to deliver negative emission generation may give the UK much needed “elbow room” in its efforts to cut emissions, Claire Perry has said.

The energy minister told a Conservative party conference fringe meeting on carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Birmingham last week that the UK has no option but to exploit the technology as part of its wider decarbonisation efforts.

Drax Power is conducting a pilot project this autumn to capture one tonne of carbon per day from biomass burnt at one of its power stations in Yorkshire, which it hopes to turn into the first “carbon negative” electricity generation plant in Europe.

Perry said: “There is the possibility from capturing biomass of delivering negative thermal emissions which would give elbow room for slower progress in other sectors.”

Andy Koss, chief executive of Drax, said the company could deliver 15 million tonnes per annum of so-called bio-energy CCS “well ahead” of 2050. This is the point by which, he said, the Committee on Climate Change has recommended the UK must be capturing 50 million tonnes of carbon per annum of biomass in order to meet its carbon emission targets.

Koss said: “We can be carbon negative by the mid-2020s with the right government support.”

Perry also claimed that the UK is now better placed to exploit the technology than when the coalition government’s previous £1 billion CCS pilot programmes were aborted following the Conservative victory at the 2015 general election.

She said: “They were very expensive and were focused on the decarbonisation of coal which we have effectively eliminated.

“The appetite of the private sector to co-invest is much greater now, so the opportunities are there to get a better deal for taxpayers and consumers.”

Koss also said that he is “encouraged” by the government’s willingness to explore the regulated asset base model, which provides investors with returns before the project is generating revenues, for new nuclear projects.

He said: “This is the type of model we need to see for the transport and storage network for CCS. If we see that long-term government support the private sector will follow.”

Charlotte Morgan, a partner at solicitors Linklaters and chair of the government’s recently published CCS cost review, said: “There is a huge amount of private sector investment looking for good opportunities and there are not that many of them.

“By choosing a different model you can access a much cheaper cost of capital.”

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