Given the abundance and relative cheapness of coal resources globally, it would be folly to argue that coal will not continue to be a substantial part of the globe’s energy mix; in fact, the most recent International Energy Agency’s energy assessment concludes that its role may even slightly expand in the next two decades. Given this fact, there is very little choice but to give full-throated support to research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies despite the reservations of many of us in terms of cost, safety and technological viability. This week, the International Energy Agency released a new report, Technology Roadmap: Carbon Capture and Storage (2009) which provides a detailed scenario for large-scale deployment of CCS by 2050.
Among the key findings of the report:
- The IEA envisions the possibility of 100 projects globally by 2020, and 3000 by 2050, which could reduce the cost to reduce GHG emissions back to 2005 levels by 2050 by 70%;
- The estimated investment requirement to achieve this goal is approximately 6% of the necessary cost to achieve a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050. This must include a $1.5-2.5 billion investment in developing countries, which will necessitate funding through the CDM or alternative financing mechanism;
- There are imposing technological issues in this context, including moving from pilot plants to a scale up to commercial facilities, transport challenges and storage issues;
- Many countries are developing the detailed regulatory frameworks to develop demonstration projects, but more needs to be done in this context.
The report notably gives very short shrift to serious and legitimate concerns about the permanence of CCS solutions, and potential environmental implications of accidents, but it does provide a very good assessment of potential costs of the technology and recommendations for sequential deployment.