- Journal Article
Summary: Aiming to avoid the worst effects of climate change, from severe droughts to extreme coastal flooding, the nearly 200 nations that signed the Paris Agreement set a long-term goal of keeping global warming well below two degrees Celsius. Achieving that goal will require dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through a global transition to low-carbon energy technologies. In the power sector, these include solar, wind, biomass, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS). According to more than half of the models cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, CCS will be required to realize the Paris goal, but to what extent will it need to be deployed to ensure that outcome?
A new study in Climate Change Economics led by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change projects the likely role of CCS in the power sector in a portfolio of low-carbon technologies. Using the Joint Program’s multi-region, multi-sector energy-economic modeling framework to quantify the economic and technological competition among low-carbon technologies as well as the impact of technology transfers between countries, the study assessed the potential of CCS and its competitors in mitigating carbon emissions in the power sector under a policy scenario aligned with the 2°C Paris goal.
The researchers found that under this scenario and the model’s baseline estimates of technology costs and performance, CCS will likely be incorporated in nearly 40 percent of global electricity production by 2100—one third in coal-fired power plants, and two-thirds in those run on natural gas. The study also found that the extent of CCS deployment, especially coal CCS, depends on the assumed fraction of carbon captured in CCS power plants. Ultimately, the authors determined that the power sector will continue to rely on a mix of technological options, and the conditions that favor a particular mix of technologies differ by region.