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IEA Urges $20B Global Push for Near-Term CCS Demonstrations

20 October 2008

Finding that current spending and activity levels to advance carbon dioxide capture and storage are “nowhere near enough to achieve the G8 goals”, a new report from the International Energy Agency calls for up to $20-billion in near-term demonstrations, in addition to plant base costs.

Despite being identified as one of the more promising technological solutions to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate warming, only four full-scale CCS projects exist to date in the world; none of these projects captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant.

The window of opportunity is closing for the global community to cost-effectively address climate change. CCS technologies must play a key role, but first they must be proven in the next decade. If we do not successfully demonstrate CCS soon, it will raise costs significantly for other climate mitigation options.

—Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)

The IEA, in its 2008 Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) study, projects that energy-related CO2 emissions would grow by 130% until 2050 in the absence of new policies. This increase would largely be a result of increased fossil fuel usage. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report indicates that such a rise in emissions could lead to a temperature increase in the range of 4-7°C, with major impacts on the environment and human activity.

There is a large consensus that a halving of energy-related CO2 emissions is needed by 2050 to limit the expected temperature increase to less than 3 degrees, the IEA said. In the power and industrial sectors alone, CCS could contribute nearly one-fifth of the reductions needed to halve back greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and this at reasonable cost.

At the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit, the G8 countries announced that 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects must be committed by 2010, with a view to broad commercial deployment in 2020. Ministers asked the IEA to assess how much progress will have been made in terms of implementation by that time.

The report, Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: A Key Carbon Abatement Option, finds that current CCS spending and activity levels are nowhere near enough to achieve the G8 goals. CCS technology demonstration has been challenged by a global increase in costs and a lack of suitable financial mechanisms to support it. In addition to the $20 billion for near-term demonstrations, the report suggests that it is also important to integrate CCS into greenhouse gas (GHG) regulatory and incentive schemes.

While progress is underway in some countries, no country has yet developed the comprehensive, detailed legal and regulatory framework that is necessary to govern effectively the use of CCS. Also, CCS is poorly understood by the general public with the result that there is a wide-spread lack of public support for this technology as compared to several other GHG mitigation options.

Next to an updated analysis on the potential, cost and performance of CCS technologies, the study discusses the financial incentive mechanisms that governments can use, and proposes a CCS Roadmap with the necessary technical, political, financial and international collaboration activities to achieve their emissions reduction goals.

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The twenty billion $$ requested here will be far better spent on rolling out a distributed power scheme to offload residential energy demand from the grid.

The sooner distributed power generation is initiated - the less need to continue producing energy with coal. We are at a crossroads of sorts. Continue to chase after the coal-carbon dragon or, take a major step forward to cut centralized power generation 33% in ten years.

Adopting Residential Power Units linked in local area grids will limit new coal fired plants, focus on solar, wind, geothermal, nuke, and NG conversions to meet continuing baseload.

While RPUs need to be phased in creating a huge new energy business sector - they will not eliminate single point grid power near term. But the technology is here - it is now a matter of focusing political will to implement it.

This is in keeping with (between the lines) timelines that want the heavy CO2 reductions but know coal is gorilla in the room.
The coal industry along with petroleum underpin global economies. As crude oil is only becoming more valuable and less readily available, it is to a degree self regulating.
All coal options are both vast previously very cheap to exploit and have relatively higher emissions.
The coal industry (hence old global economy) stays or falls on finding the CCS holy grail.
The clock is running.

$20 billions is small investment to the future of this industry.
If regulation insists on carbon reductions, you can be sure they'll throw many times this at the problem.
Whether it will come to anything?

It would be a financial shame to see this CCS grail chased by many times this (small) investment. A bit like being pursued by the gorilla.

Energy companies, even those with vast reserves, need to look beyond those reserves to the new economy. If they are in the "energy" business, they will adapt to new products and services. If they are in the oil, gas or coal mining business - they may not. Does the gorilla settle for the fruit fallen to the ground, or look up to the tree where it grows fresh?

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