The World Coal Association (WCA), London, called for greater investment in cleaner coal technologies, in order to meet growing global energy demand and reduce CO2 emissions. Coal plays a vital role in society by providing over 40 % of global electricity and as an indispensable ingredient in modern infrastructure. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA), Paris, forecasts show that coal use is set to grow by around 17 % in the next twenty years. With 1.3 billion people globally without access to electricity, it is clear all sources of energy will be needed to meet this demand, including coal. Greater investment is needed in cleaner coal technology to meet global energy demand, alleviate energy poverty and minimise CO2 emissions.
Technologies such as high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal plants and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), can make a significant contribution to reducing global CO2 emissions as part of the energy mix. Benjamin Sporton, WCA’s Acting Chief Executive, stated: “The WCA recognises the vital role that all low emission technologies can play and has created a global Platform for Accelerating Coal Efficiency (PACE) to promote adoption of these technologies. PACE’s vision is for the most efficient power plant technology possible to be deployed when coal plants are built. PACE’s objective is to raise the global average efficiency of coal-fired power plants and so minimise CO2 emissions, whilst maintaining legitimate economic development and poverty alleviation efforts.”
Increasing the average efficiency of the global coal fleet from the current level of 33 % to 40 % can be done with off-the-shelf technology that is currently available. This would make a significant contribution to global efforts, saving around 2 Gt of CO2 annually – roughly equivalent to India’s total annual emissions.
Furthermore, CCUS technology is also a reality, as evidenced by the Boundary Dam coalfired power station in Canada. This pioneering project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 mt of CO2 annually, the equivalent to taking more than 250,000 cars off the road each year. Benjamin Sporton stated: “Calls for divestment ignore the global role played by coal and the potential offered by HELE and CCUS technologies. It is essential that responsible investors actively engage with the coal industry. All low emission technologies are needed to meet climate targets. We cannot meet our energy needs, tackle energy poverty and reduce global emissions without utilising all options available to us, including low emissions coal.”
The International Energy Agency has estimated that CCUS could deliver 14 % of cumulative GHG emissions cuts through to 2050 and that climate change action will cost an additional US-$ 4.7 trillion without CCUS. In comparison to other low carbon technologies, CCUS is underfunded. The Global Subsidies Initiative has reported that nuclear and renewable energy projects (excluding hydroelectricity) receive US-$ 45 billion and US-$ 27 billion in public funds respectively every year. In comparison, in the decade since 2005, only US-$ 12.2 billion has been available to fund CCUS demonstration, in total. (WCA)