SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Most power plants and major industrial facilities emit thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the air every day. Yet technology exists to capture carbon dioxide and store it in geologic formations deep under the earth. The single biggest obstacle to this process, known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), is cost. Most of the cost is incurred at the power plant or industrial facility, where the carbon dioxide must be extracted from smokestack gases in a complex process. The rest of the cost is incurred at the storage site and, if necessary, in the construction and operation of a pipeline. Although this technology is proven at small scale around the world, questions remain about how to build it at a large scale and whether there is adequate storage capacity underground. These questions are not likely to be answered until there is an economic incentive to build large CCS systems as a strategy to control global warming pollution.
Building and using a carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system essentially means building new coal plants. We believe this makes sense only to fill an unavoidable gap between today’s energy demand and a future of 100% clean energy. Today’s coal plants inevitably release carbon dioxide, making them among the most dangerous sources of global warming pollution. Since today’s coal plants cannot be retrofitted with CCS technology, we favor the construction of new coal plants with CCS technology because it is essential to avoid delay in shutting down today’s pollution-intensive power plants.
Utilities will incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) when two conditions are met. First, additional engineering development is needed to bring reliable, large scale power plants with CCS technology to the marketplace. This will probably require a federally-subsidized demonstration plant. Second, federal and state policy will need to ensure that no coal-fired power plant is built without carbon capture and sequestration technology. This could be accomplished through a stringent carbon dioxide emission standard, or with an emissions cap or tax that results in making such a system cost-effective due to the financial penalty that would result from not having a carbon dioxide control system.
What SACE Is Doing?
SACE has encouraged utility commissions to recommend that utilities pursue CCS plants when no other viable option exists, as opposed to conventional coal-fired power plants.