There is almost always a solution to any problem. In this case, the problem is China, its dependence on coal, and its 500 trillion people (or something like that). Europe has the experience and technology needed for “clean coal” through carbon capture and for polygeneration.
China gives Europe the political and economic backbone necessary for its ambitious green dreams. More importantly, China will act as Europe’s “lab” for testing, allowing for acceleration of ambitious projects and expansion of its label as a green world leader.
It is through this joint initiative that a way has been paved for the development of efficient, low-carbon energy systems. Researchers believe that international collaboration – and in particular an initiative called COoperation Action with CHina (COACH) – will speed up the development of polygeneration plants.
While generating electricity, these plants will also produce other coal-based fuels. One of the key points of this program is the incorporation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Global energy demand is increasing year over year. Renewable energy is a the primary goal for the future, there is currently no renewable source that can adequately replace fossil fuels.
In China, which relies so heavily on coal, the need for cleaner power generation is urgent.
- In 2004, China accounted for more than 17 per cent of global CO2 emissions
- By 2007, China’s emissions had increased to 25%, equal to the US
COACH was developed to ‘prepare the ground’ for advanced clean coal technologies in China, with two key goals: decarbonising fossil fuels, especially through the capture and storage of CO2 and the polygeneration of coal-derived fuels.
Coal-based polygeneration systems, especially in the electric power sector, have to be adapted to specific infrastructures. In these systems, as well as producing electricity, coal-based power plants are also used to produce liquid and gaseous fuels. Steam and waste heat can also be captured and used for industrial and domestic energy services.
The different drivers and research priorities in China and Europe make cooperation mutually beneficial. For example, a major obstacle for the deployment of CCS technology is cost; these technologies are not yet commercially competitive. Europe already funds research in this area, and findings from these projects could usefully inform developments in China as well as Europe, especially research into the handling and storage of the captured CO2. The European Commission plans to support as many as 12 European CCS demonstration plants which should go on stream between 2012 and 2020.
Equally, China’s reliance on its abundant coal resources means that it has ploughed funding into establishing effective coal gasification systems. China has already established ambitious targets for its gasification technologies, but there has been ‘political lingering’ that has slowed the implementation of clean coal technologies. International cooperation can often supercede these types of roadblocks.
By directing research into handling CO2 and making CCS commercially acceptable, Europe and China can support each other in the rapid development of more sustainable energy schemes.
The bigger picture: if two of the most powerful but distant political entities can work together to each other’s mutual benefit, this could be the catalyst and trend-setting example for future collaboration and cooperation between nations to find solutions to climate change and energy-specific issues.
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