IEA: Carbon Capture Needs $20B — Now


A new report from the International Energy Agency urges the world’s governments to invest $20 billion in near-term, full-scale carbon capture and storage demonstrations. The report, entitled “Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: A Key Carbon Abatement Option,” says that current spending is nowhere near the level needed to achieve the necessary emissions reductions set forward by the G8. The U.S. has spent $2.5 billion on clean coal technology since 2001 but scrapped its only large-scale CCS project, citing rising costs.

The report acknowledges that CCS technology costs have shot up in the last five years but says this makes it all the more necessary for governments to invest and install long-term policies to encourage CCS. Twenty full-scale CCS projects must be in operation by 2020, the report says. There are currently only four CCS plants in operation in the world, but they are all just pilot projects and none capture carbon from coal power plants. “The technology must be proven within the next decade,” IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka was quoted as saying at a press conference in Paris today.

The report estimates that to keep emissions levels stable between now and 2050, deploying enough CCS to help meet that goal would cost $50 per ton of abated carbon. But going farther and halving emissions levels by 2050, which the UN recommends, will bump that cost up to $200 per ton. For comparison, carbon is trading for less than $30 a ton on Europe’s exchange and in the U.S. carbon recently sold for just over $3 a ton at auction.

The report also notes one of the less-mentioned drawbacks of carbon capture technology – CCS will increase the amount of coal needed to produce a given electrical output since CCS technology decreases a plant’s efficiency. While it will supposedly make our coal power cleaner, it will actually accelerate our consumption of a fossil fuel.

Graph courtesy of IEA.

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