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air pollution, the Beijing Municipal
Environmental Protection Bureau
announced that it would be phasing
out coal-fired power in the capital’s
six main districts by 2020.
China has been pouring money into
the development of renewable energy
technologies, spending an estimated
US$64 billion on large-scale clean
energy projects in 2014 alone. This was
five times more than the next biggest
spender, according to market analyst
Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
China is also investing heavily in CCS
technologies, with at least 12 projects
THERE ARE SEVERAL pathways
toward reducing emissions from the
electricity sector – from the adoption
of nuclear energy and greater uptake of
renewable sources and natural gas, to
more efficient power plants and modified
diesel engines that can burn liquefied
coal. CCS, however, is one of the most
promising methods for reducing
emissions from coal-fired power stations.
Capture technologies isolate and pump
CO2 underground to be stored in the
pores of rocks (see graphic page 29).
Rajendra Pachauri, who until early
2015 was Chair of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, told the UN
2014 Climate Summit in New York,
in September 2014: “With CCS it is
entirely possible for fossil fuels to
continue to be used on a large scale”.
Dianne Wiley, CO2CRC’s program
manager for CCS, says CO2 capture
technologies are already available to
install. Their deployment is limited
by high costs, but there have been
strong successes. Wiley points to the
commercial scale Boundary Dam
Integrated Carbon Capture and
Sequestration Demonstration Project
in Saskatchewan, Canada – the world’s
first large-scale power plant to capture
and store its carbon emissions – as
a good example of what ’s possible with
CCS technology. It became operational
in October 2014 and, its operators
say, is already “exceeding performance
expectations”. The CAN$1.3 billion cost
of the system should drop by around 30%
in subsequent commercial plants, says Brad
Page, CEO of the Global CCS Institute.
WHILE COAL AND GAS continue to
be our dominant energy sources,
the once-burgeoning renewables
industry has been hindered by the
Federal Government’s recent review
of the Renewable Energy Target
(RET). The review recommended
scrapping the 20% target for
renewable electricity generation by
2020, resulting in political deadlock
and investor uncertainty across the
renewable energy sector.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s
Australian head, Kobad Bhavnagri,
says the review was especially
damaging because it came
“very close to making retroactive
changes to a policy”.
changes are made to
policy it becomes,
he says. “When
and destroy the
value of existing
– for a long time.”
more carbon emissions per
person than any other OECD
country. One-third are generated
by the electricity sector, in which
coal and natural gas account for
roughly 85% of generating capacity.
Renewables, mostly from
hydropower, account for about 15%.
Reaching the 20% target during
the next five years will not be
cheap. At the time of the review
it was estimated that another
$18 billion of investment would
be required to reach the target.
But the costs associated with
increased generating capacity are
yet to be weighed against the costs
of potentially catastrophic climate
change. Scientists have warned
a 2°C increase in overall average
temperatures from pre-industrial
levels is the limit our planet can
withstand before the effects of
climate change become irreversible.
In December 2014, following the
release by the International Energy
Agency (IEA) of its report World
Energy Outlook 2015, the agency’s
chief economist and director of
global energy economics, Dr Fatih
Birol, told Bloomberg’s Business
Week that global investment in
renewable energy needs to
quadruple to a yearly average of
$1.6 trillion until at least 2040, to
stay below that warming threshold.
SOME OF THE world’s biggest
economies have taken note.
Estimates by the Climate
in full, could
tonnes of CO2
out of the
between now and
2030 – more than
all global fossil fuel
emissions from 1990 to 2013.
In 2014 – while China spent
US$64 billion on large-scale clean
energy projects, increasing its 2013
total by about US$10 billion – the
USA spent nearly US$13 billion
on utility-scale renewables and
continued to expand production
of its almost carbon-neutral shale
gas reserves (see bit.ly/1H6rRF1
for Australia’s progress).
Research by Bloomberg New
Energy Finance found Australian
investment in large-scale renewable
energy in 2014 was US$223 million
– the lowest in more than a decade.
2014 saw Australia nose-dive from
11th largest investor in commercial
clean energy projects to 39th,
behind developing nations such
as Honduras and Myanmar.
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