Enthusiasm surrounding carbon capture and storage (CCS) seemed to be deteriorating, State-owned power utility Eskom group executive for sustainability Dr Steve Lennon said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the CCS – EU/RSA Partnership: A Focus on Carbon Capture conference, in Midrand, he pointed out that while there had been significant interest in CCS in around 2007, it was now, especially in the US, rather seen as 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 not decreased but rather increased with the Carbon Capture and Storage Roadmap having been endorsed by Cabinet in 2012.
The endorsement by Cabinet followed a voluntary commitment to reduce South Africa’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 34% in 2020 and by 42% in 2050, on condition 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.”
Meanwhile, 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 said.
“CCS has to remain firmly on the agenda,” he stated.
He added 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 the global temperature rise to only 2 °C by 2020 would be impossible without CCS; however, he stated 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 make use of more public money, to increase the carbon price, or a combination of these.
“Some of the funding that had previously been put into renewable energy could perhaps now be used for CCS initiatives,” he suggested.
Young added 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, saying that the outlook based on these prerequisites was not optimistic.
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.