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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Is CCS The Solution For Europe?

“Massive fossil fuel consumption in China and India means that without carbon capture and storage we are stuffed”, said MEP Chris Davies at the recent Carbon Capture and Storage in Europe: Progress and Prospects event. 

The Environmental NGO Network on Carbon Capture and Storage would concur.  It says it is “not prudent to bet solely on such a large-scale transformation of the world’s energy system,” but instead see carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a critical climate change mitigation tool.

CCS is a technology which captures CO2 from industrial plants, compresses it for transportation to a storage site and deposits it where it cannot enter the atmosphere – normally underground in a rock formation. 

The aim of CCS is to prevent CO2 release into the atmosphere.  However, public awareness and acceptance of the technology remains low and not all environmental NGOs are united in their support for CCS.  Reservations include the high cost of implementation and technical equipment, uncertainty regarding the storage reliability and distraction from investing in other more certain climate mitigating technologies like renewables.

Yet without CCS, the International Energy Agency (IEA) sees “no climate friendly scenario”.  In IEA’s 2013 CCS Roadmap, it urges faster CCS development, alongside other key clean energy technologies usually given more attention.  The Roadmap proposes a range of policy solutions to lay the foundations for scaled-up deployment by 2020, including the introduction of CCS financial support mechanisms to drive private financing of projects.

In the EU, the CCS sector continues to lose out on financial support.  Four of six CCS projects allocated money by the European Energy Programme for Recovery have stalled and €320 million of EU cash earmarked for CCS recently returned to the general budget as utilities that were originally committed to CCS gave up on development plans.

A Consultative Communication identifying barriers to CCS progress was launched by the European Commission in March 2013, with a view to creating a policy framework which best promotes its development. 

Without a clear CCS message from different areas of the energy and environment field, the future of the technology is uncertain.  The IEA says that the next seven years will be crucial for CCS.  Will public awareness rise and resistance soften?  Will more industrial-scale projects be seen in Europe?  At this point, the direction to be taken is not clear.

Blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge

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