Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for fossil-fuel power plants is perceived as a critical technology for climate mitigation. Nevertheless, limited installed capacity to date raises concerns about the ability of CCS to scale sufficiently. Conversely, scalable renewable electricity installations—solar and wind—are already deployed at scale and have demonstrated a rapid expansion potential. Here we show that power-sector CO2 emission reductions accomplished by investing in renewable technologies generally provide a better energetic return than CCS. We estimate the electrical energy return on energy invested ratio of CCS projects, accounting for their operational and infrastructural energy penalties, to range between 6.6:1 and 21.3:1 for 90% capture ratio and 85% capacity factor. These values compare unfavourably with dispatchable scalable renewable electricity with storage, which ranges from 9:1 to 30+:1 under realistic configurations. Therefore, renewables plus storage provide a more energetically effective approach to climate mitigation than constructing CCS fossil-fuel power stations.
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We thank the organizers and participants of the ECI CO2 Summit for their comments and discussion, and especially J. Wilcox and N. McDowell for their feedback on the original idea. We also thank Masdar Institute for supporting our participation. M.C. acknowledges the support of the Arctic Center for Sustainable Energy (ARC), UiT Arctic University of Norway through grant no. 310059.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Sgouridis, S., Carbajales-Dale, M., Csala, D. et al. Comparative net energy analysis of renewable electricity and carbon capture and storage. Nat Energy 4, 456–465 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0365-7
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