BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Trapping and burying carbon dioxide from power plants could become viable without public funding by 2030, helping nations reduce their dependence on energy imports and meet climate goals, a report said on Monday.
But that could happen only if obstacles to the technology are removed and polluters are forced to pay more to emit CO2 in cap and trade schemes, it added.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is seen by industry as a potential silver bullet to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants, which are multiplying rapidly in India and China, threatening to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels.
Companies are working on cutting-edge technology to trap CO2 and pump it into empty gas fields and deep underground caverns, but utilities are reluctant to use the process as it adds about 1 billion euros ($1.42 billion) to the cost of each power plant.
The European Union wants up to 12 demonstration plants by 2015 in the hope they will find ways of cutting future costs. EU sources say the bloc is close to agreeing billions of euros of public funding to kick-start the pilot projects.
Once it has built momentum and been properly developed, the cost of burying CO2 could fall to 30-45 euros per tonne by 2030, said the report by consultancy McKinsey and Co.
“Costs at these levels would make CCS installations economically self-sustaining at a carbon price of 30-48 euros per tonne,” it added, referring to the price of permits to emit CO2 under the EU’s flagship Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).
The ETS caps how much CO2 industries may emit and establishes a system for trading in emissions permits.
The price of carbon being traded in the scheme on Monday was around 25 euros, for December delivery, but the report cited five studies by financial institutions that forecast prices would rise significantly by 2030.
“On the one hand, (CCS) could provide greater energy security by making the burning of Europe’s abundant coal more environmentally acceptable, and so reducing the dependency on imported natural gas,” the report said.
“On the other, it could potentially improve the environmental impact of new energy forms such as electric cars and hydrogen, which could be produced with CCS-based electricity,” it added.
Reporting by Pete Harrison