EU must be more ‘ambitious’ on rolling-out CCS

The commission’s 2030 climate and energy package ‘underscores’ the value of carbon capture and storage (CCS), but measures must be taken to make it financially viable, says Graeme Sweeney.

The European commission and European parliament have invested great efforts in driving the debate around climate change goals for 2030. We now have a framework proposal that provides a strong foundation for achieving these goals and developing a competitive low-carbon economy.

That the proposal underscores the value of CCS in achieving climate change targets is a significant step in the right direction. However, we must not become complacent and fail to introduce the policy elements that will facilitate a successful future for CCS.

At the core of the commission’s proposal is the target to reduce EU domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, which is a positive step towards the goal of an 80 to 95 per cent reduction by 2050.

The commission’s renewed commitment to CCS, particularly underlining its value for decarbonising the European power sector and carbon-intensive industries, emphasises the significant role CCS must play in meeting this target.

Zero emissions platform (ZEP) research has already demonstrated that the power sector in Europe cannot be cost-effectively decarbonised without CCS, and that it is crucial for maintaining jobs and preserving the industrial base, as it is the only decarbonisation option for many energy-intensive industries.

We urgently need EU transitional support measures and an ambitious milestone for CCS if we are to create the right environment for the technology to flourish.

While the 2030 framework proposal calls for increased research and development efforts and commercial demonstration projects in CCS we need an ambitious EU milestone that would provide the necessary level playing field vis-à-vis other low-carbon technologies.

Beyond this, careful consideration must be given to the proposed new governance structure. National plans should be considered in the context of a milestone for CCS.

They will also need to be flexible enough to allow member states to achieve their GHG reduction ambitions using the technology which is most appropriate for their circumstances, allowing room for CCS where desired.

Looking to the future, the emissions trading system should remain the central tool of EU climate policy. But we will need structural measures that will reduce emissions costs effectively and provide a predictable and robust carbon price, triggering investments in low-carbon technologies, such as CCS. A timely cap on the number of emission allowances flowing through the market in 2030 is a priority in this regard.

Transitional support measures are crucial. Our research clearly shows that the carbon price will still be too low in the 2020s to drive the roll-out of CCS. Well designed measures, such as a CCS fund, feed-in-premia or even a CCS certificate scheme will be necessary for the roll-out.

The CCS industry needs clear signals from policy makers to ensure a strong business case and tackle funding and infrastructure gaps as well as bureaucratic obstacles.

There is no question CCS can deliver and, with the council meeting in March fast approaching, the moment is right for member states to create the necessary environment for the deployment of this essential technology.

Graeme Sweeney is chairman of the zero emissions platform (ZEP)