The funding could prove controversial as carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is an unproven technology that critics say is not commercially viable, climate-friendly or safe.
Supporters on the other hand say CCS will be crucial to reducing the global warming impact of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, on which the International Energy Agency says the world will continue to rely for decades. The European Commission has already backed the technology to the tune of €1 billion.
António Correia de Campos, the rapporteur tasked with seeing the energy infrastructure package through the European Parliament, told EurActiv that “around 10%-15%” of the €9.1 billion funding in the legislation would be spent on the technology.
“CCS is by nature under-developed and by definition this leverage will be fundamental for it,” he said.
European CCS projects have been beset by delays, despite receiving billions of euros of EU funding.
Of 12 CCS demonstration plants due to begin operation in 2015, only between four and six are now expected to be up and running by 2020.
“The instrument that we had before to pay for projects and for research, studies and planning probably will apply more for CCS in its present phase,” de Campos said.
“But we cannot be limited to this because if we are just using the old method, we will catch CCS in a trap and it will never be developed,” he added.
Energy infrastructure package
The energy infrastructure package outlines how CCS technology would reduce carbon dioxide emissions on a large scale while still allowing the use of fossil fuels.
For this reason, “the future development of a cross-border network for carbon dioxide transport requires steps to be taken now for European level infrastructure planning and development,” it says.
Yet there has been little public discussion about the allocation of CCS funding in the package and renewable energy grandees said the funding made no financial or policy sense.
“How can you build an infrastructure for something that has not been implemented yet?” said Arthouros Zervos, president of the European Renewable Energy Council, an industry group. “It would be another white elephant.”
“Even the people building CCS say it won’t be commercially viable until 2030,” he added, “and if you give the money to CCS you subtract it from other electricity infrastructure projects which Europe needs urgently.”
In 2008, the International Energy Agency estimated that, every tonne of CO2 captured through CCS would cost $40-90 (€30-€68), but current carbon prices are closer to $11 (€9).
Carbon capture has still been lauded by energy companies such as Shell for offering the possibility of mitigating emissions from continued large-scale fossil fuel use.
Enhanced oil recovery
The liquefied carbon, which is a byproduct of CCS, can also be pumped into depleted oil fields to push the remaining fossil fuel to the surface. In the Canadian province of Alberta, three out of four publicly funded CCS projects will be used for the enhanced oil recovery of 'tar sands'.
But as well as negating any potential savings in greenhouse gas emissions from the technology, environmentalists complain that this practice can have dangerous consequences for nearby communities.
In January 2011, a Canadian newspaper, the Whitehorse Star, reported that a farmers' study had found that the world's largest CCS project, run by the energy giant Cenovus, was leaking carbon.
Farmers above the Weyburn oilfield in Saskatchewan, complained that their animals were dying and groundwater was being sent foaming to the surface.
Cenovus had injected more than 13 million tonnes of carbon gas into the ground under their feet.
Two CCS plants in Germany and Britain were recently cancelled, and many remaining projects are at risk, due to regulatory objections, funding shortfalls, public opposition, and questions about their contribution to mitigating climate change.
Even so, the EU’s 2050 Energy Roadmap still estimates that CCS will account for between 19%-32% of Europe’s emission cuts by 2050.