Energy Technology Perspectives 2015

15th May 2015

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently published its annual energy technology report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 (ETP15). The report reviews the latest energy technology developments and provides detailed examples of these technologies in action. ETP 2015 identifies regulatory strategies and cooperative frameworks to advance innovation in areas like variable renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and energy-intensive industrial sectors. The report also shows how emerging economies, and China in particular, can foster a low-carbon transition through innovation in energy technologies and policy.

Coal

ETP15 highlights that while coal demand has slowed marginally, it still accounts for 30% of global primary energy consumption and more than 40% of electricity generation. China remains the world’s highest consumer, followed by the US and India; combined the three accounted for 70% of global coal demand. During the same period, coal demand grew by 2.9% in non-OECD economies.  This rise in coal consumption can be explained through several factors, including high gas prices/low coal prices, more severe weather and increasing demand in Japan.

China added an additional 53 GW of new coal plants in 2012, with the Chinese government now pursuing a policy of building only supercritical or ultra-supercritical units. Permission to build is also usually only provided at the expense of retiring ageing facilities. India, however, has favoured a programme of less efficient subcritical units, adding 21GW in 2012. Coal-fired generation continues to expand across Southeast Asia too, with the region also favouring less efficient, subcritical units.

Between 2002 and 2012, the annual growth of CO2 emissions from the coal sector was 3.7%, yet over the past five years that figure has halved so progress is being made. However, the report recommends three principles for future coal-fired power stations:

  • Facilities should offer the highest possible efficiency
  • Plants must be able to operate with sufficient flexibility to balance electricity supply and demand by compensating for variable supply from increasing renewable power
  • If not initially installed with carbon capture and storage (CCS), stations should be designed for future retrofit of CO2 capture.

CCS

Over the past five years there has been a slow yet steady increase in the number of CCS projects under construction. The report identifies the opening of Boundary Dam in October 2014 as a significant milestone for CCS, as construction continues on the Kemper County energy facility in Mississippi, which is expected to come on-line in 2016. By the end of 2014, 13 large-scale CO2 capture projects were operating globally across five sectors, with a potential to capture up to 26 MtCO2 a year. Another 13 projects are in the advanced stages of planning, and 2014 saw the final investment decisions taken on two further projects, bringing the number under construction up to nine.

ETP15 states that CCS will have to grow significantly to meet the challenge of 2DS. The 35 projects currently in operation, advanced planning or under construction have the potential to capture 63 MtCO2 between them; but just a short window remains to begin the development of other projects and get them on-line by 2025.

The IEA recommends that governments and industry work together to ensure the projects currently in development receive final investment decisions as soon as possible, promoting a constant stream of development. As well as this, it states that where possible opportunities to match policies with local and commercial interests should be exploited to encourage CCS deployment, recommending the introduction of measures targeted at creating new and strengthening existing markets.

More information on ETP15 can be found on the IEA website: http://www.iea.org/etp/

Information on the potential offered by high efficiency, low emission coal technologies and the WCA’s global Platform for Accelerating Coal Efficiency (PACE) can be found on the WCA website.