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Carbon capture and storage provides no justification for new coal-fired electricity, says ODI

Written by Ilmi Granoff, Sam Pickard

Carbon capture and storage provides no justification for new coal-fired electricity, says ODI

The potential benefits of carbon capture and storage technology provide no economic, environmental or development justification for further investment in coal-fired power generation, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has warned.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), the process whereby CO2 is captured from a large emitter and stored underground to prevent it entering the atmosphere, has been hailed by the coal industry as an environmentally-sound way to continue investing in fossil fuels.

Analysis published today (Tuesday, 8 December) by UK think-tank the ODI however warns the added cost of CCS will simply push up electricity prices at a time when new coal-fired power is already struggling to compete with cleaner technologies.

The briefing paper says any new coal plant built today locks the energy system into a future with higher emissions, higher electricity costs, or both.

ODI Research Fellow Ilmi Granoff said: “The evidence shows that carbon capture and storage does not justify any existing or planned new coal-fired power plants. It remains technologically and commercially unproven, while solar and wind already out-compete coal in key markets such as the US, South Africa and India. There is greater promise for CCS innovation outside of coal power, like industrial applications.”

Governments have committed more than $10bn of public money to CO2 capture projects in a bid to attract the private sector into CCS development. An analysis of public available data, however, suggests up to 90% of these funds went unclaimed through cancelled and shelved projects. Power companies decided that even with these subsidies the projects were not viable.

The paper notes how even if CCS was technologically and commercially proven and available, it is estimated that 82% of known coal reserves would still have to remain in the ground between now and 2050 to remain below the 2C threshold.

Mr Granoff said: “We need an honest conversation about the costs and cleanliness of our options: the fact is the most advanced coal plant produce around 30 times more CO2 than wind and hydro, twenty times more than solar and geothermal, and 50% more than natural gas. It doesn’t compete on price and is still less cost competitive when you add CCS. Just one third of new coal development already planned would lead us into the realm of irreversible climate change.”

Notes to editors

·         The figure governments have committed to capture projects is from the Global CCS Institute’s ‘Status of funding support’ in The Global Status of CCS: 2011 (http://hub.globalccsinstitute.com/publications/global-status-ccs-2011/42-status-funding-support#c4_fig44)

·         In February 2015 the World Coal Association called for further investment in CCS to meet global energy demand and reduce CO2 emissions (http://www.worldcoal.com/coal/13022015/World-Coal-Association-calls-for-investment-in-CCS-1889/)

·         Estimates for the amount of coal that would not be burnable between now and 2050 from McGlade, C. and Ekins, P. (2015) ‘The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limited global warming to 2°C’. Nature, 517, 187-190

·         ODI, The world has a two-degree carbon budget. Coal alone will put us in the red, 21 October 2015 (http://www.odi.org/comment/10003-carbon-budget-coal-energy-g7-developing-countries)

·         ODI, How clean is clean coal? 16 November 2015 (http://www.odi.org/comment/9991-clean-clean-coal)