Much has been made of the potential for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Europe's evolving energy mix. However, its progress has stalled in recent years with concerns around cost, complexity and potential health and safety risks.
Last week the Energy Institute held a lecture entitled, 'CSS: Developing a cost-effective scheme for the UK'. Delivered by Andrew Green, Programme Manager at the Energy Technology Institute (ETI), the lecture put forth an analysis of CCS's current position in the UK, as well as its possible role in the future.
Green highlighted some interesting results from the ETI's Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME): a pathway optimisation model focussing on long-term pathways to predict how the energy industry will look further out. It predicts that CCS has the potential to save the UK's power industry £30 billion by 2050.
Moreover, the CCS Association believes the technology could create 100,000 UK jobs by 2030 and cut CO2 emissions by a third by 2050 - due to CCS producing negative CO2 when combined with biomass.
2,000 of these jobs are expected to stem from a regional CCS hub in North East England, the creation of which moved one step closer on Monday with the announcement of up to €300 million funding for the country's flagship White Rose project located in Yorkshire. The funding, from the European Commission's NER300 clean energy programme, is a crucial part of the puzzle of how to get CCS up and running in the UK. Its success of course, is still contingent on the British Government implementing supportive market mechanisms and incentives.
However, the Yorkshire project is the exception. The broader CCS story is one of various PR disasters across Europe in recent years and has resulted in an untrusting public and caution from investors. Certainly, the CCS industry's failure to educate the public, potential stakeholders and win friends across the energy industry has created a hostile environment for future investment.
For example, the ROAD project in the Netherlands has been left scrambling for the final €130 to €150 million in investment that it requires. This might be a drop in the ocean when compared to most large energy infrastructure project budgets, but you can't help but wonder whether a more amiable environment might have greased the wheels a little and helped pull in those final Euros.
The International Energy Agency has estimated that 3,400 CCS plants will be needed globally by 2050 in order to meet critical carbon reduction targets. It's therefore vital that a more robust and effective communications strategy for CCS be rapidly deployed in order to encourage a more conducive environment for investment.
Certainly, it's clear that in order for CCS to realise its potential in the UK, it needs better support from a PR and communications perspective. Targeting potential investors, businesses, and the general public with campaigns that both promote its benefits and allay fears about the risks, would go a long way to liberating CCS from the current commercial hiatus.