Decarbonisation of the energy supply is top of the EU's agenda for greenhouse gas reduction. How can this be reconciled with rising energy demand, and how can deployment happen quickly enough to meet the targets? The new Scottish European Green Energy Centre (SEGEC) has a clear approach.
The new Scottish European Green Energy Centre (SEGEC) is pushing for the rapid demonstration and deployment of low carbon energy solutions. SEGEC, which was formally launched in August 2009, is taking an innovative approach to delivering European projects - focusing on projects which have the scale and the speed necessary to achieve the significant CO2 reductions necessary to meet the EU's 2020 targets.
Duncan Botting, Executive Chairman and Interim CEO, points out that the EU has a good track record in agreeing world-leading legislation on climate change, and in supporting research and development. The challenge of the 2010s has to be to move beyond the research campus and into widespread deployment of new low carbon energy systems and behaviours. The crucial next step for the EU is the demonstration of these new technologies at a level that can give the confidence that they can be rapidly deployed in the next decade.
He argues that: "the technologies and the behaviours that can deliver the emissions reductions needed by 2020 are already well-developed and on the brink of being widely deployed - onshore wind, solar PV, and, crucially, energy efficiency. The real challenge lies in what comes beyond 2020, where full decarbonisation of the energy supply - across electricity, transport, heating and cooling will be required. Here is where the EU needs to demonstrate the technological solutions that can drive this - offshore wind, smart grids, marine energy, subsea grids and carbon capture & storage."
SEGEC is uniquely placed to help the EU demonstrate these solutions. Based in Aberdeen, the Centre has unrivalled access to Scotland's world class research expertise in low carbon energy systems; a natural environment blessed with abundant renewable resources; and an innovative industrial base that knows how to work in the harsh offshore environments where wind, waves and carbon storage capacities are greatest.
SEGEC has already achieved great success since its inception - securing EU Economic Recovery Package money for an EU offshore wind test centre in Aberdeen, and a North Sea grid offshore node connection in Shetland. It has also secured EU financing from Intelligent Energy for a best practice study on removing barriers to renewable energy deployment, and is part of several consortia which have successfully bid into stage 1 of the 2010 FP7 call on carbon storage.
It is in CCS where SEGEC and Scotland can offer the EU some of the greatest help in technology demonstration. The Scottish CCS capacity study was launched by Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, in May 2009 as the most comprehensive and detailed assessment so far of CO2 storage capacity in the EU. He said: "The conclusions of this study underline just how vast Scotland's potential in CCS is - we have the capacity to capture safely and store emissions from industrial coal-fired plants for the next 200 years. The potential Scottish capacity is of European significance, comparable with that of offshore Norway, and greater than Netherlands, Denmark and Germany combined."
SEGEC is working closely with one of its industrial sponsors, Scottish Power, to make the case for rapid demonstration of CCS in Europe. At Longannet Power Station, Scottish Power and its partner, Aker Clean Carbon, tested a prototype carbon capture unit during 2009, and managed to achieve a 30% improvement in efficiency of the capture process. SEGEC is helping Scottish Power to promote this progress to the European Commission and to position Longannet to benefit from the New Entrants Reserve money for CCS demonstration.
As Duncan Botting comments: "Europe must deliver on CCS if it is to meet its own emissions targets and help the rest of the world too. For CCS to really work, it has to be retrofitted to the 20,000 existing power stations worldwide - and not just to new ones. That is why the Longannet project is so important for the EU, since it takes an existing power station and leads to actual emissions reduction".
The other part of the CCS chain that has to be demonstrated, is the storage. The Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage is the UK's leading CCS research centre, headed by Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh. SEGEC has helped SCCS promote the Scottish CCS capacity study in Europe, and to build collaborative partnerships to make the North Sea the EU's CCS hub. Professor Haszeldine argues: It is crucial for the EU to move rapidly to demonstration of CO2 injection into saline aquifers. It is only through injection testing in a real environment that we will fully understand their actual storage capacity. The EU must quickly establish this certainty and Scotland's offshore waters are the ideal place to test this'.
SEGEC is working with partners across the EU to influence the European Commission to help fund CO2 injection testing alongside the planned demonstrator programme, ideally through an offshore EU CO2 storage test lab. This could test and monitor long-term storage performance in different geological structures. Scotland has the expertise in subsurface engineering, and the infrastructure of oil and gas platforms and pipelines to make this happen.
As Duncan Botting points out, "successful demonstration of storage will help make CCS viable.
Along with improvements in capture efficiency, CCS should then be commercially viable and ready for widespread deployment in the 2020s. It is only through successful demonstration that we will convince the offshore industry that CCS is a safe, long term investment - and create a new future for the North Sea in the process. By focusing on real world demonstration and deployment, SEGEC is providing a vehicle for Scotland to capitalise on its low carbon energy assets, and setting the agenda to help Scotland deliver for Europe."