Today, coal power plants without CCS are the most common source for power production globally. The reason is simple; it is cheap and coal is easily available in most places of the world. Regulations to tackle climate change and limit CO2 emissions are placing an additional cost on fossil fuel power plants. This has already happen in the EU where the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is established to regulate emissions from the power sector, or in Canada where an Emission Performance Standard in effect calls for CCS on coal power plants.
There are essentially three ways to adapt to stricter climate rules and reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired plants:
- By improving the stock of operational plants, e.g. by closure of the most inefficient plants, modernising and refurbishing existing plants or improving their operation and manteinance, and by deploying avaliable technologies in new plants,
- By switching to lower-carbon fuels, e.g. by switching from coal to natural gas or by co-firing coal with sustainable biomass, or
- By employing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
The obvious question is then: How can we ensure the roll-out of CCS?
The challenge for CCS is to reduce its costs so that it becomes cheaper to invest in CCS than to buy emission allowances. When introducing new technology, the initial prototypes will always be expensive, while further research and development results in a learning effect that reduces the costs considerably. That has happened for many new technologies, ranging from solar cells to mobile phones.
The answer is to build large-scale CCS demonstration projects. Scientists and industry believe that experience and knowledge from building and operating CCS demonstrations, together with continued research activities, is the optimal way to reduce CCS costs.
However, the political challenges are often regarded as larger barriers for CCS than the technological ones. These entail the role of CCS in international climate negotiations, in national and EU-level regulatory frameworks and in public financing. On public funding, Bellona has published a report examining the various options – CCS Market Incentives Report.
Successful deployment of CCS worldwide will require a long-term and transparent regulatory framework. Legislation for how CO2 storage should be performed has been established in some regions, like Australia and the EU, but consistent regulations are required worldwide. Furthermore, both push and pull incentives need to be established.
The first full-scale CCS demonstration projects will be expensive and industry is reluctant to pay the entire bill for the first projects. Therefore, public funding for the demonstrations projects is required and reliable well-functioning funding mechanisms need to be established.
Furthermore, despite being around for decades, the concept of CCS is not well known to the general public and has suffered from miscommunication. When asked how they regard CCS, people tend to be sceptical because they have heard little of it before. Many also raise concerns about the safety of CO2 storage.
When people are provided with objective information about CCS they tend to be more positive to the technology as a tool to combat global warming. Consequently, it is important to ensure well-founded information campaigns to inform both the public and public decision-makers about CCS.