Sunday, July 15, 2012

UNFCCC Executive Secretary at OPEC meeting

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, gave a speech at the 5th OPEC International Seminar, held at Vienna in June 2012.

I must say this was a brilliant move. Beginning by reassuring Oil Producing Countries that the demand for oil will continue to increase even with successful climate change mitigation policies in place, she proceeded to point out a strategic approach that represents a win-win solution for both OPEC and the fight against climate change:

“Our aim should be an economic system that strategically directs oil toward the highest margin specialty markets, generating the most amount of economic benefit for each barrel of oil’s emissions.”

Higher margins mean higher profits for oil producing countries. Although this was not voiced, higher oil prices are also vital to anticipate the arrival of a low-carbon future. Cheap oil has been undermining and delaying the further technological development and large scale deployment of alternative energy sources and energy carriers, such as solar energy and hydrogen, respectively.     

Christiana Figueres also took the opportunity to point that the optimization of the internal use of energy in Oil Producing Countries, through the implementation of energy efficiency measures, are a way to increase the availability of oil and gas for export.

Displaying a far-sighted vision, the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of 2012 will be held for the first time ever in the Gulf region, in Qatar.

Adapted from: UNFCCC, 2012.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Carbon Capture, Transport and Storage

The objective of the European Industrial Initiative (EII) on Carbon Capture, Transport and Storage (CCS) is to contribute to the development of the technology that will enable the application of CCS in all carbon intensive industrial sectors and to ensure its competitive cost for deployment by 2020-2025. The operational objectives of this EII include the final Investment decisions for up to 12 CCS demonstration projects should be taken by 2015, as well as a programme of knowledge-sharing between projects (

All the main technology routes for carbon capture, post combustion, pre-combustion and oxyfuel, are to have pilot projects for demonstration. These pilot projects should improve the capture processes by reducing the cost of technology and the loss of efficiency. They should also contribute to improve the integration of capture technologies into industrial installations, and to increase the purity of the CO2 stream as required to manage risks in the transport and storage infrastructures.

The transport concepts should be further developed to increase operational reliability and safety, both through pipeline and ship. The pilot projects should also contribute to launch the core of a trans-European CO2 network.

Storage monitoring technologies and reporting procedures shall be validated and a consistent methodology for classification of storage reserves/capacity should be established. Finally, this industrial initiative should also evaluate the storage potential within the territory of the European Union, namely in deep saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas fields and “unmineable” coal layers. These sites and CO2 emission sources will be mapped out to enable the identification of potential pipeline trajectories connecting sources and sinks.

The operating costs of CCS will greatly depend on the price of coal and of Emission Unit Allowances under the European Emissions Trade Scheme. As an ending note, let us refer that one of the outcomes of the Durban conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was the inclusion of projects for carbon dioxide capture and storage in geological formations as eligible Clean Development Mechanism activities – a program which provides financial support for developing countries, under the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

- CCS EII Implementation Plan 2010-2012, Zero Emissions Platform

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pan-European power grid

The European Union's targets to increase the share of renewable energy to 20% by 2020, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, pose a major challenge to the power grid throughout Europe. The existing electricity grid is mostly based on technology which was developed more than 30 years ago, for one-way energy flows from large production plants to the consumer.

Unlike the conventional power plants, which enable full control of the production of energy, the sources of renewable energy have natural variability, particularly wind and solar energy, but also hydraulic energy, which are all dependent upon weather conditions. Additionally, there is also a major paradigm shift as we move from a highly centralized network to decentralized production, where the consumption points can also inject electricity into the power grid, through micro and mini-production of electricity.

To accommodate the massive deployment of renewable and decentralized energy sources, a stronger and smarter electricity grid is required, with significant benefits deriving from the creation of a single interconnected grid throughout Europe in terms of energy security and affordably.

On the supply side, the wide geographic integration cancels-out part of the local variability of renewable energy sources and reduces the need and level of curtailment of the conventional power plants to avoid temporary surplus in electricity production. “The increase in transmission capacity and crossborder coordination of market operations will also allow sharing of reserve capacity between regions reducing total reserve requirements by approximately 40%, avoiding significant redundant investment.” (ROADMAP 2050 - Practical guide to a prosperous, low carbon Europe). On the demand-side, the demand curves are also softened.

Changes in the European electrical network infrastructure and operation are critical to the delivery of the decarbonization of the power sector and of the economy.

Considering the importance of the electricity networks to a low-carbon Europe, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan includes the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) in coordination and cooperation with other initiatives, namely photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, and wind energy.

The EEGI is based on a 9-year European research program for development and demonstration, with focus on system innovation rather than on technology innovation. It addresses the challenge of integrating new technologies under real life working conditions, including new intermittent renewable resources at the different voltage levels, recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles and active demand from end users. The initiative includes the smart grid model (functionalities necessary), transmission, distribution and the coordination of the different networks.

Besides contributing to the future coordinated planning and operation of the European Electricity Network, EEGI will also contribute to the study of new market rules.

- ROADMAP 2050 - Practical guide to a prosperous, low carbon Europe, European Climate Foundation;
- The European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) Roadmap 2010-18 and Implementation Plan 2010-12