MEP calls for mandatory CO2 capture by 2025

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UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies wants all existing fossil fuel power plants to be retrofitted with CO2 capture and storage technology by 2025, and is calling for a moratorium on new plant constructions after 2015 unless the facilities are able to prevent 90% of their CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Davies is Parliament’s rapporteur on a Commission proposal for a directive to establish a legal framework for the storage of CO2 in underground geological formations. He intends to introduce amendments to the directive that would make a 2015 moratorium and 2025 deadline for CCS retrofitting legally binding. 

The MEP announced his plans during a 6 May press conference in Brussels.

“The development of [carbon capture and storage – CCS] must be brought forward and there is no time to lose. The world’s demand for electricity requires the use of coal but to allow the construction of hundreds more dirty power plants undermines all other strategies to reduce emissions,” he said in a statement.

With coal set to remain a central part of the EU’s energy mix, Brussels is betting on CCS technologies as part of wider EU efforts to tackle climate change and to reduce the bloc’s CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. 

But CCS technology is controversial and highly expensive. EU public authorities have yet to offer firm spending commitments in support of ministerial pledges made in March 2007 to have 12 CCS demonstration projects up and running by 2015.

Davies says member states need to show greater political will, and is calling on the incoming French EU Presidency to push to issue to the top of the EU’s agenda. 

“What I think should be the minimum is for the French to get this issue sorted. By the end of the French EU Presidency we should know which member states are going to take lead responsibility for ensuring that they are built,” he told EURACTIV in an interview.

Like Davies, energy giant Shell is in favour of using the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as a driver for CCS development. CO2 captured and stored with the technology should be given double credit under the EU ETS, as this would "provide a unique opportunity to establish a framework for funding using the power of the carbon market to drive CCS deployment. [...] This would enable investment decisions on CCS to be made as early as 2009”, the company said in a statement. 

French energy infrastructure firm Alstom  also  reacted positively to Davies' recommendations. The companys is "currently partnering with major utilities to develop and test its carbon capture technologies in several pilot plants allowing it to propose a viable option in line with Chris Davies's proposal", it said in a press statement.

Green groups, meanwhile, disagree on whether to support a big boost in public expenditure in support of CCS demonstration projects that would kick-start the commercial development of the technology.

Greenpeace has offered the most vehement criticism of CCS. A study released by the group this week argues that CCS offers a "false hope" since the technology will not be ready in time to produce a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

"CCS does not exist," says Mahi Sideridou, Greenpeace climate coordinator in Brussels, in reference to the lack of commercially-deployed CO2 capture facilities. In this context, EU legislation on CCS "is being designed blindly," she said.

WWF, in contrast, has come out in support of the technology as an interim measure in light of a global flight to coal. The Greenpeace position is "unfortunate", says Stephan Singer, the head of the group's climate and energy team in Brussels. "It is too early to shoot down the technology," he said.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technological process which separates the carbon dioxide from the gases produced by large stationary power plants, compresses the CO2 and then transports it to a location where it can be stored in geological formations or in the ocean.

It is one of the technologies being developed to counter global warming. The EU has set up a Technology Platform on Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants and has proposed a regulatory framework to commercialise and subsidise this new technology. (See EURACTIV LinksDossier)

  • 25 Sept. 2008: Davies' report, including the proposed amendments, is scheduled for adoption in a first reading agreement.

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