IN the midst of African countries’ calls for the use of the continent’s 50 billion tons of coal reserves to provide electricity for the more than 600 million Africans that do not have access to it, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has backed the use of clean coal technology.
In July last year, US President Donald Trump called on multilateral development banks to help developing countries use coal cleanly and efficiently to aid their development.
Although climate change activists are stridently opposed to the use of coal, African countries have welcomed Trump’s decision. They argue that with continuing technological improvements, coal could be mined with less emission into the atmosphere.
In this light, stakeholders have shown keen interest in the IEA’s Coal 2017 report in which it suggested that urgent action was needed to support Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), the technology that aids clean coal use. It noted that in 2017 CCUS development made ‘important strides.’
The IEA pointed to the commissioning of the Petra Nova Carbon Capture project in the US, the largest CCUS project in the world applied to a coal-fired power generation plant, noting that this was ‘an important step forward.’
‘However, the progress on CCUS is lagging far behind other low carbon technologies,’ the IEA report said. ‘There is a broad agreement among energy leaders from both the governments and the industry that urgent action is needed to support CCUS.
‘Without CCUS, the climate challenge will be much bigger. This is why the IEA, together with countries and industry leaders is working to give a new momentum to this essential technology. Indeed, without CCUS, coal use will be seriously constrained in the future,’ the report added.
To back its support for clean coal use, the IEA organised a global CCUS meeting in Paris late last year at which more than 20 countries and CEOs of the world’s top energy companies discussed the technology in the presence of US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol,
‘This serves as a critical reminder why technologies like CCUS are so important, and why governments and companies need to step up their policy support and investments in that sector in order to meet global climate goals,” Keisuke Sadamori, director of energy markets and security for the IEA, told journalists. “Indeed, without CCUS, coal use will be seriously constrained in the future.’
African governments are keen to utilise CCUS to boost electricity production in their countries. This, they argue, will enable them to provide jobs and ultimately lift people out of poverty.
Looking at the demand for coal use globally, the IEA has again projected that this would rise, although it noted that in the case of India demand would fall by half. This picture of rising coal demand, even after adjustments for slower-than-expected growth, fits into a pattern of IEA projections over recent years, according to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy.
‘Since 2011, the IEA has consistently forecast rising coal demand, even as it has repeatedly adjusted its figures downwards in light of lower-than-expected growth. Some analysts believe the agency remains behind the curve in its outlook for coal,’ Carbon Brief added.