Two coal-fired power plants, including E.ON’s controversial Kingsnorth project, are to be given government support to develop technology for storing carbon dioxide emissions, according to an investigation by a British newspaper.

The announcement, which could come in early March, will take Britain closer to commercial carbon capture and storage technology – essential if the country is to continue burning coal for electricity while meeting the government’s targets on greenhouse gas emissions, the Financial Times reports.

When the studies are completed in about a year, the government has pledged to award public funds to one of four projects – that could be worth tens of millions of pounds – to demonstrate CCS technology on a commercial scale.

This level of CCS technology has not been achieved on this scale anywhere else in the world.

Each company is likely to be given funding in the low tens of millions of pounds to meet the cost of drawing up those plans, according to the newspaper.

The proposed plant at Kingsnorth has been the subject of repeated protests by environmental campaigners because of plans by E.ON to build the first new coal-fired power station in Britain for decades.