Interview: No ‘huge’ CO2 cuts for coal until after 2020


The EU should adopt a strict timeline with mandatory requirements to ensure that all new coal-fired power plants are capturing and storing the CO2 they emit by 2030, says UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies. He spoke to EURACTIV in an interview.

With 50 new coal-fired power plants set to be constructed in the EU over the next five years alone, there are concerns that the bloc’s energy policy contradicts parallel ambitions to reduce, by 2020, its overall CO2 emissions by 20% while sourcing 20% of energy needs from renewables. 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which allows for CO2 produced during coal-based power generation to be stored in geological formations rather than being emitted into the atmosphere, could provide the answer.

But CCS, while technically feasible according to industry experts, is expensive, and neither governments nor the private sector have so far committed any serious funding to kick-starting the development of the technology.

Davies, who is Parliament’s rapporteur on a Commission proposal to establish a legal framework for CO2 storage and other aspects related to the development of CCS, says member states need to show greater political will and need to honour the promises they made in March 2007 to build 12 large scale CCS demonstration projects by 2015.

So far, the pledge “has not been followed up by any definite commitments. The UK is the nearest but it’s on a relatively small scale,” Davies said.

While the MEP supports the use of significant public funds to kick-start the technology, Davies suggests that one way to encourage the private sector to pick up part of the bill is to give power companies double credit in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for CO2 stored using CCS.

“The Commission is divided on this at the moment, but I think open to persuasion”, Davies said. “I’ve spoken to a number of key stakeholders recently, including industry and NGOs like Vattenfall and WWF, and frankly nobody had an alternative to this. All the other options that are put forward just don’t hang together, but this one potentially does,” he added.

Davies will hold a press conference on 6 May in Brussels to announce his proposal for a timeline according to which all new coal-fired power plants in the EU would need to be fitted with CCS technology. While details of the timeline remain to be finalised, “we can place mandatory requirements on every coal-fired power station being built from now on to be CCS-converted by 2030. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable gesture,” he said. 

But Davies also admits that this timeframe may be too late for the EU with respect to the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020.

“I think by 2020, we’ll be looking at quite a transformed world. We won’t be preventing a huge release of CO2 emissions but we’ll be on our way to bringing about the change necessary,” he said.

To read the full interview with MEP Chris Davies, please click here.

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