Six in ten Europeans wants CCS in new coal power plants

The International Energy Agency estimates that the cost of achieving desired climate change stabilisation by 2050 will be at least 70 % higher if CCS is not available and widely deployed after 2020. Still, public knowledge of CCS is limited. The fact that CCS is a complicated issue makes it less known than energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. 13,091 respondents in twelve EU member states were interviewed between February 9th and March 5th 2011 about their awareness and acceptance of CCS.

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Here are some of the most interesting findings:

Awareness of CCS technology

Whilst over a quarter of respondents indicated that they had heard of CCS, only one in ten (10%) said they also knew what it was. One in five (18%) indicated that they had heard of it but did not really know what it was. The majority, over two thirds (67%), had not heard of CCS.

Awareness of the specific CCS projects

Within individual countries there were some small variances to the overall figures, the exception being in the Netherlands, where more than a third (35%) had heard of the EU co-financed CCS project in Rotterdam. in comparison, fewer than one in ten had heard about a specific CCS project in Germany (9%), Italy (9%), Poland (8%) and the UK (5%). Only 2% of Spanish people had heard of such a project.

Opinions about the CCS technology

A high proportion of people ‘do not know’ whether CCS technology is effective in the fight against climate change, but a higher proportion thought that it is effective (39%) than those who did not (25%). Nearly four in ten people felt that CCS could be effective in the fight against climate change. A third (33%) felt CCS technology could be ‘fairly effective’, while a further one out of every sixteen (6%) believed it could be ‘very effective’. A quarter of respondents thought that it would not be effective in fighting climate change, around one in fourteen (7%) thought that CCS was ‘not at all effective’ in fighting climate change, while just under a fifth (18%) thought it was ‘not very effective’. However, well over a third (36%) said that they ‘did not know’ whether CCS technology could be effective or not to fight climate change.

Benefits from CCS technology

People were unclear about the benefits of CCS technology. Overall a higher proportion thought that they would not benefit from CCS technology (38%) than thought they would benefit from it (23%). The main reason why people thought they would benefit from CCS technology was ‘an improvement of air quality’. The main reason people thought they would not benefit was that it would ‘not have a positive effect on the environment’

Opinions about the safety of CO2 storage

Respondents in each country were asked how concerned they would be if a deep underground storage site for CO2 were to be located within 5km of their home. Overall around six in ten people (61%) expressed some concern about the safety of CO2 storage. Just under a quarter were ‘very concerned’ about it. The two main concerns people had about CO2 storage were ‘effects on the environment and health’ and the ‘risk of leaks while the site was in operation’

Best options for storing CO2

Public opinion was almost evenly divided about the best ways to store captured CO2 emissions: under the seabed, in areas of low population density and near the facility that produced the emissions.

Sources of information about CCS

Overall, universities and research institutions emerged as the organisations that the highest proportion of respondents trusted in terms of providing them with information about CCS (45%). Just under a third (31%) indicated that they trusted NGOs whilst just under a quarter trusted journalists (24%) and a similar proportion (23%) trusted regional and local authorities. One in five (20%) indicated that they trusted their national government. Just over one in eight trusted The European Union (14%), energy companies (13%) or friends and family (13%).

Future developments in the energy sector and the role of CCS

Six in ten people (60%) agreed that CCS should be compulsory for the building of new coal-fired power plants. Over half (55%) agreed that CO2 represents a safety risk for the future.