Friday, December 21, 2012

NGOs Rally for CCS in Doha

UNFCCC COP18 concluded earlier this month, with few substantive achievements from the perspective of climate engineering.  The conference succeeded in securing a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (though with fewer participants and mediocre ambition levels), thereby extending the CDM and JI through 2020.  And a formal loss and damage work program was established, which may have implications for any eventual geoengineering liability governance mechanisms.  But nothing significant with respect to CCS or A/R (in the context of REDD) was accomplished at the meeting in Doha.

CCS did make some news at a side event hosted by the Global CCS Institute, however.  At this event, the recently formed ENGO Network on CCS (see New NGO CCS Network, 2/2) unveiled a new report calling for a redoubled commitment to CCS.  These groups, including such prominent organizations as EDF and NRDC, proclaimed that CCS is safe, and zeroed in on the principal barrier to wider deployment: "The single biggest barrier standing in the way of CCS deployment is the absence of comprehensive climate policies that place a significant market value on avoided emissions" (p. 6).  The report also singles out BECCS as particularly promising: "the combination of CCS and biomass that is acquired without causing permanent deforestation or otherwise compromising its lifecycle emissions footprint can open up an emissions reduction pathway that 'scrubs' carbon dioxide from the atmosphere" (p. 3).  No doubt the ENGO Network is anxiously awaiting final CCS funding decisions under the EU NER300 program (see Update on NER300, 8/10) and UK Commercialization Program (see Short List Announced in UK CCS Funding Competition, 11/1).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Electricity Market Reform in the UK

An Energy Bill introduced in Parliament last month is pushing forward one more element of Britain's comprehensive CCS Roadmap policy in the form of Electricity Market Reform (EMR), an initiative designed to spur more than £100 billion in new, low-carbon energy infrastructure investments by the end of the decade.  The proposed EMR encompasses the entire electricity sector, and rests primarily on novel "contracts for difference" (CFDs) intended to provide price guarantees for clean energy generators.  If generators sell power for less than preset "strike prices," they will be compensated for the difference by a new, state-backed entity.  When prices exceed this level, generators will pay back the difference.  Specific CFD strike prices, including for electricity derived from power plants equipped with CCS, will be announced next year.  The Energy Bill also creates a new capacity market, and institutes a new emissions performance standard for power stations that will effectively require CCS for all new coal-fired units.  The government expects to pass the bill in 2013, with CFDs coming into force the following year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Views on Geoengineering from UNFCCC COP18 in Doha

Halfway through COP18 in Doha, a Reuters correspondent has spoken to several principals regarding their current views on geoengineering.  Highlights include:
  • "Let's first use what we know ... There are so many proven technologies we know that are tried and true that have not been used to their maximum potential" - Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
  • "Let's face it, geo-engineering has a lot of unknowns ... How can you go into an area where you don't know anything?" - Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC Chairman
  • "It's a little premature to start looking at geo-engineering" - Mira Mehrishi, head of the Indian delegation
  • "There's a lot of skepticism ... Research is necessary to see if it could be viable in one way or other" - Artur Runge-Metzger, European Commission
The most notable of these statements is from Rajendra Pachauri.  In 2009, Pachauri expressed cautious support for future CDR interventions: "At some point we will have to cross over and start sucking some of those [greenhouse] gases out of the atmosphere."  His words this week may presage renewed skepticism as the IPCC works to complete its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), including for the first time a section on geoengineering, by 2014.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Research Funding, Cost Analysis for UK CCS

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is accelerating its push for expanded CCS in Britain.  As it continues to evaluate finalists in its £1 billion ($1.6 billion) CCS Commercialization Program funding competition (see Short List Announced in UK CCS Funding Competition, 11/1), DECC has announced the first winners in a separate, £125 million ($200.3 million) R&D funding program.  (Both programs are part of the larger CCS Roadmap policy unveiled last spring--see UK Relaunches CCS Policy, 4/16.)  Thirteen grants totaling £18.3 million ($29.3 million) were announced as part of the first, £20 million ($32 million) round of the R&D competition.  Several awards were made to projects focusing specifically on CO2 transport and storage, including a storage modeling project led by Cambridge University and monitoring technology development led by Premier Oil.  A final project is currently under negotiation.

At the same time, a CCS Cost Reduction Task Force established by DECC earlier this year has released an interim report on its initial findings.  The key finding of the Task Force is that "UK gas and coal power stations equipped with carbon capture, transport and storage have clear potential to be cost competitive with other forms of low-carbon power generation, delivering electricity at a levelised cost approaching £100/MWh [$160/MWh] by the early 2020s, and at a cost significantly below £100/MWh soon thereafter" (p. i).  This estimate is based on detailed analysis of multiple cost factors including transport and storage investments, improvements in capture technology, lower borrowing costs, and synergies with CO2-EOR.