Rhein on Energy and Climate

Four years after the Commission proposals for a CCS Directive and two years after its adoption in April 2009 half of the member states have transposed the directive into national law, thus creating the regulatory framework for applying carbon capture and storage under safe conditions.

According to IEA estimates, humanity will need to install 100 large-scale CCS units by 2020 and 3000 by 2050 to achieve a 50 percent reduction of C02 emissions until 2050. But only five are presently in operation and another 70 planned.

Chinese state-owned utilities are in the lead with two CCS big power plants in operation after only two years of planning and construction. But several European, American and Japanese companies are also far advanced in their efforts towards developing mature CCS technologies. By 2015 it is expected to have competitive installations, capturing 90 percent C02 emissions, at costs ranging between 6.5 and 8.5 Euro cents, which would be less than solar and wind energy.

It is therefore urgent for the EU to have its legal framework for environmentally safe C02 storage firmly established and several commercial pilot plants in operation.

Coal-fired power plants will continue to operate across the earth for the next 50 years and beyond. But to ensure their climate-friendliness they will need to be equipped with CCS installations. No later than 2020 new coal and gas power plants should only be authorised to operate if equipped with CCS technology. This should be one of the main conclusions to be adopted at the forthcoming 17th world climate conference in Durban. Utilities across the world, but especially in countries like China, India, Australia, USA, Russia and Poland need a clear signal for their future power plant buildings and modernisations.

Of course, CCS is no panacea. It will increase the cost of electricity. It will have to compete with alternatives like wind and solar electricity, the costs of which have fallen rapidly in the last few years, thanks to technological advances and large-scale deployment.

With efficient CCS devices coal will be able to maintain a significant share in global energy markets. EU technology should compete in that market and, by the same token, enable European coal producers to continue supplying utilities with a reliable domestic source of energy. The EU Commission hopes that up to 15 percent of its C02 emissions be abated by CCS technology. That is worth the effort of developing this “bridging technology”.


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