EU urged to fuel investment in carbon capture technology

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The European Commission has been urged to start forcing energy-intensive industries to invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS) as it prepares to unveil plans to scale up the fledgling technology.

The Commission is due to launch today (27 March) a set of proposals to address the slow development and funding problems of CCS, which allows carbon emissions from power plants to be trapped, compressed and stored underground.

The technology is expected to play a role in meeting climate change targets cost-effectively, but its development is proving to be painstakingly slow.

The CCS industry received a major setback late last year when no projects were awarded a share of the NER300, an EU fund to stimulate CCS and renewables, after member states failed to provide the required financial guarantees.

Developers hope that tomorrow's paper will kick-start the commercialisation of CCS.

David Hone, Shell's climate change advisor, is urging the EU to take a more "heavy-handed" approach to deploying CCS, given the failure of NER300 or the European Emissions Trading System to stimulate investment.

He has backed a proposal that could effectively see new targets set for CCS, to help place it on a level playing field with other low-carbon technologies such as renewable energy or energy efficiency.

A draft copy of the Commission plan, seen by BusinessGreen, showed the EU has considered requiring carbon intensive businesses or suppliers of fossil fuels to buy CCS certificates to match their emissions.

The draft also proposed a mandatory emissions performance standard for all new investments, limiting a fixed amount of emissions per unit.

Boosting investment

Hone said such targeted approaches could help stimulate new investment in CCS and would offer an indirect equivalent to a binding EU-wide target.

"If you have a certain amount of CCS linked to your fossil fuel consumption, that's probably a viable way forward," he said. "Then you're not dependent on the carbon price in the economy and you begin to implement CCS in a more market-related manner but with a definite outcome."

The EU's CCS communication will be unveiled alongside a paper on post-2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, a consultation on a new international climate deal and a progress report on renewable energy.

Draft copies of the post-2020 paper set out proposals for a new carbon target that would require a 40% reduction in emissions against a 1990 baseline and plans for a 30% target for renewables by 2030.

However, Hone warned that the EU could fail in its ambition to meet its carbon targets unless it sets specific goals for CCS. He believes governments have "muddled" the need for new renewable energy supplies and greater energy efficiency with the need for CCS.

"Just because something like a solar panel or a wind turbine doesn't emit CO2 when you use it it's seen as a solution for the climate.

"But if you look at the climate issue as a stock problem, then you really need to have CCS too."

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology aims to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants or energy-intensive factories and bury them in underground stores, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or geological cavities.

By the end of 2010, 234 CCS projects were active or planned globally, a net rise of 26 from 2009, according to the Global CCS Institute. This was despite soaring costs and cancellations by European countries including the Netherlands and Finland.

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