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‘Right the wrongs of the past’: Calls for UK energy strategy to include carbon capture in north-east

Boris Johnson's government has been criticised for snubbing a north-east carbon capture project last year.
Boris Johnson's government has been criticised for snubbing a north-east carbon capture project last year.

A long-awaited UK energy strategy must include investment in a north-east carbon capture project snubbed last year, the SNP says.

The UK government was widely criticised for its decision to reject the bid by the Acorn project at St Fergus, Peterhead.

The SNP says Westminster must now act to include the site within its upcoming energy strategy and “right the wrongs of the past”.

A letter to Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, signed by the party’s north-east MPs, hits out at the UK government for having “continued to withold funding to the Acorn site”.

The Scottish Government has put £80 million on the table for the project, in a bid to encourage Westminster to take forward the plans.

‘Complete betrayal’

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn, who is also the SNP’s business spokesman, said the decision not to back the project was a “complete betrayal of the north-east”.

He added: “In January, the SNP Scottish Government stepped in with £80 million for the project, but in order to reach its full potential we need the UK government to stop dragging their feet and invest too.

“That is why, alongside my colleagues from the north-east, we have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – urging him to use the upcoming energy strategy to create a Track 1 carbon capture site in the north-east of Scotland which, in turn, will create up to 20,600 jobs in the next decade.

Aberdeen South MP, Stephen Flynn.

“We know that the Treasury will reap the rewards of inflated oil and gas prices, with £13.6 billion of additional income generated from Scotland’s resources, and a further £6 billion earned from the Emissions Trading Scheme.

“This money must be used to invest in the Scottish Cluster if we are to meet out emissions reduction milestones, and for a just transition to net zero – not just for Scotland, but across the UK.

“If the Secretary of States fails to deliver on this, he – alongside his Tory colleagues – will have betrayed the people of Scotland yet again.”

‘Confected grievance’

Huge dismay met the UK government’s decision to snub the north-east in a £1 billion funding competition last year. 

Instead, rival projects in “red wall” constituencies in the north of England were awarded funding instead, leaving the Scottish cluster bid, led by Acorn, as a so-called “reserve cluster” under track 2. 

The project is designed to take and store carbon dioxide in pipelines under the North Sea and was expected to create up to 20,600 jobs in the next decade.

Bosses at the firm behind the Acorn project said last month that the carbon capture and storage project will still go ahead despite losing out its first bid for funding.

Conservative Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said: “All those who are actually involved in the process – project partners, the UK Government and myself as the local MP – are working to get the Scottish Cluster online.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been holding talks with figures from the energy sector ahead of unveiling the UK government’s energy stategy.

“At least £31m of UK funding has already gone into the project, and investors are confident that Acorn is going ahead.

“Short of anything useful to contribute, the SNP resort to confected grievance.

“This is from the party which repeatedly come out against North Sea oil and gas – the very industry which will make carbon capture utilisation and storage a reality.

“Scaremongering and showboating like this only distracts from the project’s positive and constructive engagement with the UK Government – not to mention investor confidence.”

The UK government will outline its plans for the future of energy in the UK on Thursday. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been holding talks with figures from the nuclear, renewables, and North Sea oil and gas sector ahead of the launch.

Acorn project.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to making the UK a world-leader in green technology, including carbon capture. The Acorn project has already been allocated over £40m in development funding by the UK Government in recent years, and we want to make sure the cluster can get maximum value from this support going forward.

“The strong potential of the Acorn project has been confirmed by the bidding process – which is just the start.

“This is good news for the future competitiveness of Scotland’s industry, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to help the Scottish Cluster continue its development.”

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