by Jack Rosebro
|Cover of Vattenfall’s “Curbing Climate Change” proposal.|
Speaking in Stockholm today at “Pathways to Sustainable European Energy Systems,” the inaugural project conference of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, Vattenfall CEO Lars Josefsson proposed a worldwide, adaptive carbon reduction burden-sharing framework to be implemented over the next 100 years, as part of a path towards a low carbon emitting society.
The Swedish energy company estimates that the framework has a 50-50 chance of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels at 550 ppm, accompanied by an estimated average global temperature increase of 2º C. Josefsson bluntly stated that “in the collective world, we have totally underestimated the problem” of climate change.
“Most people spend their time telling us that there is a problem,” he said. “We need to spend more time solving the problem.” Vattenfall chose to develop and present this framework because, in Josefsson’s words, “we couldn’t find anyone else [in the business community] interested in this work.” Political solutions to long-term problems such as climate change are not practical, he remarked, because “the four-year perspective is a political reality.”
He acknowledged, however, that this own industry also presents obstacles to societal transformation. “The energy system has a great deal of inertia,” Josefsson admitted, “and it will be difficult to change the picture. We speak of a very, very large system.”
A discussion of the framework, entitled Curbing Climate Change can be downloaded from Vattenfall’s website.
The guiding principles of Vattenfall’s proposed global GHG allocation and reduction framework are as follows:
All countries should participate: participation is a part of being a member of the global community.
No poor country shall be denied its right to economic development.
No extra cost burden on the poorest.
No rich country shall have to go through disruptive change.
Richer countries pull a larger weight: emission caps do not apply to countries until they have reached a certain economic level; poorer countries with caps get higher emissions allocations compared to richer countries
There must be a level playing field; the proposed framework shall not change relative competitiveness.
The system shall be robust; as new knowledge is accumulated, parameters may change, but not the principles underlying the system.
Emission caps should be binding.
Emission allowances are allocated to each country in relation to its share of gross global product (i.e. gross GDP) divided by population.
The final allocation to individual companies or facilities will be made at the national level.
The mechanism should be able to achieve wide acceptance as being fair and balanced.
|Description of the GDP-based allocation mechanism. Click to enlarge.|
The determination of each country’s permitted CO2 emissions level would be performed in three steps:
First, a global target GHG production cap would be set in order to reach a specific carbon dioxide concentration level by year 2100. A 550 ppm CO2-equivalent target is proposed, but if that goal proves too lax or too harsh, the same principles can be used for other target levels.
Second, the emissions of developing countries would be deducted from this cap until those countries reached a certain level of economic development, as measured in terms of their GDP per capita. However, if all countries are committed from the start, developing countries will then be aware that once a certain economic level is reached, activities in their country will also face restrictions.
Third, the remaining allowed emission levels would be divided between all countries facing restrictions in a given year, in proportion to their share of total global GDP. Wealthier countries would be allocated less GHG production per person. Josefsson commented that “it is reasonable to require that the richer you are, the more efficient you should be.”
He pointed out, however, that the implementation of burden-sharing could be tricky. Although individual countries would be free to decide how they want to divide reductions among industry, “there should be no horse-trading.”
It is anticipated that the time between initial adoption of the framework and 2030 would serve as a “linking-in” period. “The pain will be bearable” during the adaption process, remarked Josefsson. “Keep it simple. Take the heat, but don’t give up on your principles.”
According to the proposed 100-year framework, GHG allocations would be calculated every five years until 2100, beginning in 2015.
Josefsson said that Vattenfall will ask global energy and transport companies to sign on to the framework, explaining that “problems that damage the global economy will also damage the global corporations.”
Vattenfall Group, which supplies heat and power to Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany, is the fifth largest generator of electricity as well as the largest generator of heat in the European Union.
Wholly owned by the Swedish state, Vattenfall (Swedish for waterfall) has evolved from a hydropower-dominant public utility into a competitive Northern European energy group. The energy group’s portfolio is relatively diversified, ranging from ninety biofuel-fired plants in Scandinavia and Germany to ten nuclear reactors in Sweden.
|Vattenfall’s CCS pilot plant, under construction at Schwarze Pumpe, Germany. Click to enlarge.|
For example, Vattenfall is building a €50-million, 30 MW oxyfuel pilot power plant with CCSneara itsexistingg 1,600MW lignite-fired power plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Germany. Operation at the pilot plant is scheduled to start mid 2008 and the plant is expected to be in operation for at least 10 years.
The CCS pilot plant will produce about 60,000 tonnes of CO2per year at full load—about 0.6% of the volume of the larger Schwarze Pumpe power plant (10 million tonnes CO2 annually.
According to Vattenfall, oxyfuel combustion—in which the coal is burned in a mixture of nearly pure oxygen and recycled flue gases rather than in air—is the technology that seems to have the best potential for commercial use in the kind of large lignite-fired power plants that Vattenfall operates.
|Schwarze Pumpe CCS pilot plant. Click to enlarge.|
The oxyfuel combustion produces a nitrogen free flue gas with high concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor as its main components, making it easier to further concentrate the flue gas to an almost pure stream of carbon dioxide.
After combustion, the flue gas is cleaned and then cooled. The resulting carbon dioxide can be compressed, dried and further purified before transportation to a storage site.
Other options Vattenfall considered were pre-combustion capture (gasification to produce a syngas from which the CO2 is separated) and post-combustion (in which flue gases pass through the absorption column where the solvent reacts with the carbon dioxide, chemically binding it and removing it from the gas stream).
Vattenfall is also planning a number of wind-power projects that would more than double Scandinavia’s wind-sourced power output. A total of more than 500 wind turbines in Sweden and Denmark now generate about 1.3 TWh of electrical energy annually.
As Vattenfall has relatively clean hydro, nuclear, and wind facilities in Scandinavia, the dominant sources of its CO2 emissions are fossil fuel-burning power plants in Germany and Poland. However, carbon dioxide emissions from Vattenfall’s operations, as measured in grams/kWh, have decreased since 1990 by 36% within electricity generation and 29% within heat production.
The Alliance for Global Sustainability is a co-operative network of four universities: Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden; Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich; and the University of Tokyo.
Created in 1997, the AGS is composed of university scientists, engineers, and social scientists. Global corporations such as Ford and Dupont, as well as Vattenfall, support AGS research.