Carbon emission targets hard to meet without bioenergy and CCS

17th February 2015

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Anar Mehdiyev

The UK's legal commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% against 1990 levels by 2050 will be difficult to achieve without bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (CCS), according to a new report from the Energy Technology Institute (ETI).

The report, written by Jo Coleman, the ETI’s director of strategy development, and Andrew Haslett, the institute’s chief engineer, claims the cost of transitioning to a low carbon economy could double without bioenergy and CCS. An affordable transition is possible, but crucial decisions must be made about the design of the system to avoid wasting investment and ensuring the 2050 targets remain achievable, concludes the report.

Haslett says policy decisions taken over the next 10 years are critical if the UK is to have an affordable low carbon energy system: “In the next decade the UK should focus on ensuring it is prepared by developing options and exploring trade-offs between particular sets of technologies.”

The UK is legally committed to achieving the 80% reduction in GHGs by the middle of the century through a series of five-year carbon reduction budgets, and is currently on track to outperform the first two targets. But meeting future carbon budgets to 2050 will require reducing emissions by at least 3% a year, the Committee on Climate Change has found.

According to the ETI’s analysis, the annual value of CCS or bioenergy to the energy system is £200 billion each and if neither are developed it would be difficult for the UK would be able to meet its climate change targets. “We see enormous potential and value in developing CCS and bioenergy, and the success or failure of deploying these two technologies will have a huge impact on the cost of achieving the UK’s legally binding climate change targets,” said Coleman.

The report acknowledges that there is no single technology answer to meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets and capability across a range of technologies must be proven to replace ageing systems.

“Many of the UK’s ageing power plants need replacing, so the UK will have to pay for this new capacity anyway. This is why we focus on how you can reduce the abatement cost – the additional cost of meeting energy demand through a low, rather than high carbon energy system” said Haslett.

A copy of the report can be found here, a video of Jo Coleman explaining the findings can be found here.

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