Ed Davey: No more false starts on carbon capture

Britain will make progress on developing carbon capture and storage, Ed Davey has promised, despite admitting "frustrating" progress on the technology.

The energy and climate change secretary insisted to energy chiefs gathered in central London at the Economist energy summit that CCS is "massively important", amid growing concerns about the government's commitment to the technology.

James Smith, the chairman of the Carbon Trust and a former chairman of Shell UK, warned that CCS is "in the doldrums" and is not receiving the same level of support as other technologies.

"I don't think it's on the shelf, I think it's beginning to happen," Davey insisted.

He said it features in £1 billion of upfront investment and that "discussions are ongoing" with the two remaining bidders for government funding.

"We're moving towards a front-end engineering design deal with both those projects and I think the UK has a critical role to play," Davey added.

"We've got the engineers, the technical know-how, we've got the North Sea… It's been frustrating. There have been some false starts but I do believe we're now reaching the point where we'll make some progress."

Government officials hope CCS could allow the safe removal and permanent storage of carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power stations.

The technologies involved already exist but have not yet been developed on a commercial scale.

Britain is working in partnership with the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Norway on CCS – but observers have described the activities elsewhere as "low-key" and doubts remain over likely progress in the coming years.

A more promising impetus for CCS development could come from the US, where president Barack Obama has already voiced his enthusiasm for its development.

Up to $8 billion could be allocated to the White House's climate plan for guarantees funding projects reducing the impact of fossil fuels – including CCS.