Thursday, August 15, 2013

IEA Updates CCS Roadmap

In 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a CCS Technology Roadmap laying out practical steps governments and other stakeholders could take to move CCS from a limited number of pilot and demonstration projects to global deployment in power generation and industrial sectors.  The 2009 Roadmap famously argued that without CCS, the cost of reducing global emissions to 2005 levels  by 2050 would increase by 70%.  Last month, the IEA released an updated 2013 edition of the CCS Roadmap intended to revise recommended actions in light of recent developments.  Bluntly put, given the lack of progress on CCS deployment worldwide, IEA has scaled back its original 2009 plan to a blueprint that is less ambitious and more realistic, yet renders deployment goals and mitigation targets (and systematic development of BECCS and related CDR technology) less likely to be achieved.

The IEA is admirably honest in its assessment of CCS progress since 2009: "given today's level of fossil fuel utilisation, and that a carbon price as a key driver for CCS remains missing, the deployment of CCS is running far below the trajectory required to limit long-term global average temperature increases to 2 [degrees] C" (p. 7).  The revised roadmap details 24 actions that should be taken in the short, medium, and long term along all links in the CCS chain to meet the 2050 emissions goal.  In particular, "seven key actions represent the backbone of activities absolutely necessary during the seven years up to 2020" (p. 41): increased government funding; policies to promote CO2 storage; CCS-ready requirements; expanded capture in industrial applications; more public outreach; significant gains in power plant energy efficiency; and planning for future transport infrastructure.

The roadmap rightly observes that "The most pressing requirement for the next seven years is creating and consolidating business cases for the initial large-scale CCS projects" (p. 26).  In other words, private actors need to be given good reasons for adopting CCS--currently, with no real carbon price and minimal financial incentives, there simply are no good reasons from a business perspective.  And it is far from clear that the revised actions recommended in the 2013 Roadmap will be adequate to provide them.  Emissions performance standards for electricity generation, a potentially powerful regulatory tool that would mandate a certain level of CCS adoption by the power industry, gets surprisingly short shrift in the roadmap.  Implementing robust performance standards would fundamentally alter business cases for power companies: the question would no longer be "why should we pay for CCS?," but rather "what is the cheapest way to comply with carbon regulations?," to which CCS would frequently be the answer.  The Obama Administration is currently pursuing this approach (see EPA Advancing CCS Rule for New Power Plants, 7/5), with a revised standard for new power plants due to be unveiled next month.

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