As a further demonstration of the depth of its commitment to tackling climate change, the European Commission has been behind the launch of the Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants. This body will bring together energy companies, equipment suppliers, users, consumers, financial institutions, regulators, public authorities, researchers and civil society to develop common research goals, with the aim of a future where the use of power plants that emit no climate-damaging greenhouse gases is widespread. Through its common vision and strategic research agenda, the Technology Platform will identify and remove obstacles to the creation of such power plants, technological, financial and regulatory. The aims of the Technology Platform fit perfectly with the approach taken in the Sixth Framework Programme of looking at short and medium term needs of the energy sector, as well as supporting basic research into possible future sources of energy.
Speaking at the launch, the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik said “If we act now to reduce fossil fuel emissions and do so together, we have a good chance of making a difference to the seemingly inevitable process of climate change. The partners in the Zero Emissions Technology Platform have the opportunity to make a serious contribution to our future.”
The objective of bringing together the sector in this way is to reduce drastically the environmental impact of fossil fuel use, particularly coal. Focus will be on CO2 Capture and Geological Storage, which consists in developing technologies that capture carbon dioxide emissions as they are produced by power stations and then stores them underground, so that they cannot interact with the atmosphere and produce the greenhouse effect. The EU research programme for 2002-2006 will invest about €70m in this field, helping European companies and researchers to lead the world in this area of research and development. The stronger co-operation that will necessarily arise from the Technology Platform will allow Europe’s global position to be consolidated. This is yet another way in which Europe is showing other countries the way in terms of protecting the environment for future generations.
The Zero Emissions Technology Platform is one of several such bodies already looking to advance research in sustainable energy sources and processes, and more are being created all the time. By bringing all the relevant partners in this sector together, the EU will ensure that improvements in energy conversion efficiency and capture technology will be developed in the timeframe needed to address climate change. A common approach will ensure sustainability and compatibility and will help to drive down costs and attract investment, both public and private.
One example of this type of research currently being carried out is the CO2SINK project. This project has created the first storage site for captured CO2 on land, and is in a metropolitan area, near Berlin. The in-situ laboratory will observe the fate of the CO2 stored underground, looking at the quality of the seals, the chance of leakage, and the rate at which the CO2 dissolves or interacts with minerals in the storage site. These are all important elements that need to be examined before this type of technology can become widely used.