Clean coal ‘both green and competitive’

The EU reiterated its support for carbon capture and storage this week when energy commissioner Andris Pielbalgs visited a clean coal plant in Italy, praising the technology's combination of green credentials with economic competitiveness.

Andris Bielbalgs visited the construction site of the Torrevaldalliga Nord project that will create a clean coal power plant out of a former fuel oil plant, cutting emissions from the plant by 80%, as part of a visit to Italy to discuss the EU energy green paper.

As well as cutting emissions the project hopes to help balance Italy’s electricity generation mix, according to Italian electricity retailer Enel, the company behind the project.

The EU expressed its confidence in the controversial technology’s future during last week’s Fossil Fuels Forum in Berlin, where EU officials called for coal-fired plants to start preparing for the advent of CCS technology even before it becomes commercially viable – most likely around 2020.

But the EU seemed set on speeding up the commercialisation of the technology, calling on newly-built coal power stations to “anticipate the arrival of new technologies and be built as ‘capture ready,’ allowing for retrofitting.”

Visiting the Enel project in Civitavecchia, near Rome, Andris Piebalgs said: “Clean coal technologies contribute to the three core objectives of the new European Energy Policy: security of supply, fight against climate change and competitiveness of the European economy.

“The development of low carbon plants, like this one in Civitavecchia, should be one of the common EU objectives that the Commission wants to put forward in its EU Strategic Energy Review,” he said.

Security of supply was central to the commissioner’s visit to Italy, which will feed into the Green Paper focusing on supply security and European market integration, and which should be published next January.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) remains controversial as experts continue to question the length of time carbon can stay buried before escaping back into the atmosphere. The solution has also been criticized as unsustainable due to the limited amount of storage space for carbon available on the planet.

Goska Romanowicz

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