Stefanie Held advocates carbon capture and storage

Held spoke with EarthSky about carbon capture and storage, or CCS – a technology being developed to first capture the CO2 emitted from the production of electricity, and then store that CO2 safely underground.

Stefanie Held: I think it’s important to keep an open mind and to look at the technology and what it can do. It’s important to store CO2 safely.

That’s Stefanie Held of the International Energy Agency. This organization advises the European Union, US, and other countries on how to keep our energy supplies stable and affordable. Held spoke with EarthSky about carbon capture and storage, or CCS – a technology being developed to first capture the CO2 emitted from the production of electricity, and then store that CO2 safely underground.

Stefanie Held: CCS is a key technology moving forward, which is existing, available, and can be used today, if we want to achieve by 2050 the targets that we’ve set ourselves.

Held said that her organization’s goal is to cut CO2 emissions that come from energy production in half by 2050.

Stefanie Held: If you want to do that at lowest cost, then CCS is the key technology.

Today, just a handful of carbon capture and storage projects exist. But that’s changing, said Held.

Stefanie Held: As we move forward into 2050, we’re looking at more than 3,000 projects on the ground, and most of them will be in developing countries.

That’s because, according to the International Energy Agency, China, India, the Middle East, and other developing countries will account for 97% of the increase of greenhouse gas emissions from energy production for the next two decades. Held added that CCS should compliment energy efficiency and renewables. She spoke more about the ‘roadmap’ developed by the International Energy Agency for achieving climate reduction goals.

Stefanie Held : What we find really important to say is that CCS is a key technology moving forward, which is existing, available, and can be used today, if we want to achieve by 2050 the targets that we’ve set ourselves. And the IEA is promoting a 50 percent CO2 energy base reduction by 2050. If you want to do that at lowest cost, then CCS is the key technology. But it’s part of a portfolio of technologies. It’s not the only option.

Held talked more about the role of developing countries in sites for carbon capture and storage projects

Stefanie Held: The IEA, with the roadmap, has set out the need that is there for the world to achieve the 50 percent reduction target. It’s clear that right now, OECD countries need to lead the way on projects that need to be scaled up later and that can become fully commercialized integrated systems. But, as we move forward into 2050, we’re looking at more than 3,000 projects on the ground, and most of them will be in developing countries. Capacity building, technology transfer, learning and doing things together in international collaborative ways is key.

As of 2010, only a handful of CCS projects exist, a marked contrast from the 3,000 the IEA says are needed to meet climate goals.

Stefanie Held: We have about, we say 17, but we heard from the panel as well that there are a few projects that are being set up. But what we would like to see is that they become really quickly, fully, commercialized so that we can learn, and that it’s not only linked to clean coal, or coal-fired plants, but to other industrial sectors like cement and steel, aluminum, etc.

EarthSky asked Held what is the biggest technical obstacle to CCS.

Stefanie Held: There really isn’t an obstacle at all. The technology is available, and it can be used. There are milestones for us to achieve, regulatory milestones. We need political will as well as some integrated regulation and the CDM funding mechanism, for example. But the technical obstacles have been solved. And now, all we need to do is scale it up and take it from there.

Jorge Salazar