The European Commission believes in a new technology that could drastically cut CO2 emissions coming from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. In a communication on the production of sustainable electricity from fossil fuels, published in its Energy Package on 10 January, it argues for the capture and storage of carbon, which consists of recovering the CO2 emitted by the burning of fossil fuels in thermal power stations and injecting it underground so that it stays there for hundreds of years, during which time it will gradually disappear.

This technology is currently not viable for industrial use. Considerable amounts of research into it are ongoing. A technology platform was created in 2006, backed mainly by the big coal-based electricity producers. This new technology is relatively unknown for the wider public but the Commission intends to consult European citizens via the internet this year so as to have its carbon capture and storage (CCS) strategy approved. Time is short after all. By 2020, 70GW of capacityawill need to be replaced and a massive penetration of CCS would allow for a 90% cut in CO2 emissions from coal power stations. This is a sizeable amount as current emissions from electricity produced from coal account for nearly a quarter of total CO2 emissions in the EU.


Before industrial use of CCS, the ZEP technology platform (zero emission platform) believes it is necessary to build a dozen or so test power stations, as the US has done by already launching a billion dollar project for the construction of a huge pilot power station combing CCS, electricity produced from coal and hydrogen production. The EU will be more modest in its ambitions as its test power stations are likely to vary between 250MW and 500MW. At around 1.7 million per MW in optimal conditions, the total bill should come to around five billion euro.

The Commission thinks that there is a need to create an ad hoc structure to effectively coordinate and support these projects. As from this year, it will study the ways to achieve that, especially the various possibilities offered by European instruments: Joint Technology Initiative, Joint Undertaking (such as Galileo), even other instruments of Community finance alongside funding from the EIB (European Investment Bank) or even the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).


The idea is to show the viability of the technology whilst moving forward...

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