The only way in which the coal industry could compete with other forms of energy, such as nuclear, would be to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions, Mac Consulting principal consultant Dave Collins said last week.
Speaking at the CCS – EU/RSA Partnership: A focus on Carbon Capture conference, in Midrand, he said that implementing renewable- energy solutions was going to take time and that, currently, coal was still the most affordable means of generating electricity.
“However, this could change if carbon taxes are implemented, which is why carbon capture and storage (CCS) is of great importance,” he added.
State-owned power utility Eskom group executive for sustainability Dr Steve Lennon said at the conference that enthusiasm about CCS seemed to be deteriorating.
He pointed out that, while there had been significant interest in CCS in 2007, it was currently regarded, especially in the US, as more of a longer-term solution.
“Industry seems to have taken its foot off the pedal with regard to CCS and this needs to be revitalised,” he said.
However, Department of Energy chief director for hydrocarbons Muzi Mkhize disagreed, saying that South Africa’s interest in CCS had actually increased, with the Carbon Capture and Storage Roadmap having been endorsed by Cabinet in 2012.
The endorsement by Cabinet followed a volun- tary commitment to reducing South Africa’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 34% in 2020 and by 42% in 2050, provided that the country received technological and financial support.
Lennon stated that the reliance on coal to produce energy, especially in South Africa, was not going to change soon. “However, if South Africa fast-tracked its CCS initiatives, it could reach its 2020 CO2 emissions-reduction targets.”
“CCS would be a critical means for Europe to meet its 2050 target to reduce emissions by 80% to 95%,” European Union delegation to South Africa head of development cooperation Richard Young added.
“CCS has to remain firmly on the agenda,” he stated.
He said that Europe was on track to meet its 2020 energy objectives, which included reducing CO2 emissions by 20%.
Young further pointed out that the goal of limiting global temperature rise to only 2 ºC by 2020 would be impossible without CCS, but that the commercial viability of CCS was still a concern.
He said the options available to ensure the successful implementation of CCS initiatives were to use more public money and/or increase the carbon price.
“Some of the funding that had previously been put into renewable energy could perhaps be used for CCS initiatives,” he suggested.
Young said that there were six conditions pertinent to the successful implementation of a CCS project: the correct legislation, successful demonstration, commercial viability, public acceptance, infrastructure and innovation. He added that the outlook, based on these prerequisites, was not positive.
However, he emphasised that change had to take place, as CCS had a critical and essential role to play in mitigating the risks of climate change.