Will the economy in future energy scenarios work without coal?
CCS will - should it become a reality – enhance the use of coal all over the world. Measured per unit of energy coal is one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive fuels. Beside the CO2, combustion of coal releases a wide array of pollutants such as heavy metals, sulphur and nitrogen compounds, hydrocarbons and particulates.
A large-scale commercialization of CCS will increase the world's dependence on coal for many decades to come. The figure below shows the trend in recent years for the global consumption of coal. It is worth noting that coal consumption in OECD countries, despite a considerable growth in total energy consumption in OECD is constant over the period, while coal consumption in non-OECD countries over the period has grown by approx. one third. Part of the explanation for this development is that the richest part of the world to some extent has managed to replace coal with cleaner energy, while developing countries because of limited financial resources have not had the same opportunity. Moreover, several countries in the west have succeeded in increasing the efficiency of their coal plants, especially through the exploitation of waste heat for district heating. If CCS one way or another becomes a commercial success the result will be an increasing consumption of coal to begin with in the richest part of the world and later also in developing countries.
The industry has never attempted to conceal the fact that a major motive behind the efforts to commercialize CCS is the gigantic economic potential of exporting the technology to developing countries. However, there is no guarantee that CCS itself even with billions of euros and dollars, etc. from governments around the world will at any time be able to survive on market conditions. If the technology can not be profitable – which is what we find is the most likely prospect - the result may in time turn out to be a massive waste of public and private resources for research, development and demonstration whose only tangible effect will be a greater use of coal technologies and a higher consumption of coal in the world.
Source: Energy Information Administration, International Energy Annual 2006
Proponents of CCS emphasize again and again that coal will play a decisive role in world energy supply for a long time to come. This will be a fact if CCS becomes as widespread as the fossil industry wants.
A number of scenarios for future energy supply, however, conclude that economic development can take place even with a decreasing consumption of coal.