‘Capture ready’ regulation of fossil fuel power plants – Betting the UK’s carbon emissions on promises of future technology

Climate change legislation requires emissions reductions, but the market shows interest in investing in new fossil fuelled power plants. The question is whether capture ready policy can reconcile these interests. The term ‘capture ready’ has been used a few years by the UK Government when granting licences for fossil fuelled power plants, but only recently has the meaning of the term been defined. The policy has been promoted as a step towards CCS and as an insurance against carbon lock-in. This paper draws on literature on technology lock-in and on regulation of technology undergoing development. Further, versions of the capture readiness concept proposed to date are compared. Capture readiness requirements beyond the minimum criterion of space on the site for capture operations are explored. This includes integration of capture and power plant, downstream operations, overall system integration and regulation of future retrofitting. Capture readiness comes with serious uncertainties and is no guarantee that new-built fossil plants will be abatable or abated in the future. As a regulatory strategy, it has been over-promised in the UK.