7 Discussion & Conclusions

The potential climate impact of combining biomass with CCS in BECCS systems is large, and the negative emissions are estimated to be in the order of billions of tonnes. As shown in the summary of 16 projects included in this report, BECCS-related field activity has been undertaken but at this point only one of the plants is operational.

Considering the potential of BECCS and the necessity for large scale implementation in order to meet the climate change mitigation targets, these projects are not sufficient. It can be noted that BECCS is expected by the IEA to represent one fourth of all CCS activity in 2050,63 but in terms of current pilot and demonstration activities, BECCS-related activity is well below what is needed in order to meet expectations for future contributions from BECCS.

A forthcoming study by Vergragt et al (2011), as well as the CCS Roadmap developed by United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UNIDO, (2010) point to the fact that BECCS most often is overlooked by actors in the fields of CCS as well as by producers of biomass. The studies state that there is a widespread unawareness of BECCS amongst policy makers, and also a lack of research and demonstration programs directed at the BECCS segment of climate mitigation measures.

The insufficient efforts in research and deployment of BECCS are detrimental not only for the biomass industries, but for climate mitigation policies in general. Studies show that billions and trillions of Euros could be saved by including BECCS in mitigation portfolios. There are also large benefits to be gained in developing joint transportation and storage systems for fossil fuel CCS and BECCS, as this would increase economies of scale and lower the costs.

Partly as a consequence of the stalled negotiations on an international climate treaty, and partly because of ever increasing emission levels, the interest in so called geo-engineering approaches has increased. In this sense geo-engineering refers to different ways of tackling a situation where the CO2 levels have become too high, and mitigation no longer is an option. The Royal Society in the UK has published a report64 on different geo-engineering technologies, where BECCS is pointed out as one of the more secure and affordable solutions, a solution which also is available today rather than in a distant future.

Outside of academia, initiatives have also been taken with the goal of promoting and supporting negative emission solutions. An example of such initiatives is the 25 million US dollar Virgin Earth Challenge Prize, established by English entrepreneur Richard Branson. More and more environmental NGO’s are pointing out that we probably will need BECCS and negative emissions to be able to avoid severe climate change, including organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF, Bellona and Friends of the Earth.

There is an urgent need to expand the number of BECCS projects in all phases. Currently there are no projects in the “Define” phase and few projects in other phases. Barriers to deployment need be removed and directed funding will need to be instituted in order to provide equal terms for the BECCS technology relative to other mitigation options.

The barriers which BECCS share with traditional CCS and other mitigation options is the lack of a high enough carbon price and predictable, clear regulation. Though, a fundamental barrier which is more apparent for BECCS than for other mitigation technologies, is the low level of awareness about the technology and its potential. As BECCS is largely unknown, it is most often excluded from market incentive schemes and demonstration funding. One example is that the negative emission property tends to exclude BECCS from tax incentive systems, as they are not designed to give a negative tax for negative emissions, but only charge a tax for emissions. In order to raise awareness and empower people to take action, there is a need to inform politicians, policy makers, companies, NGO’s, the media and the general public about the potential benefits, limits and impacts of the BECCS technology.

63 IEA, 2009

64 Royal Society, 2009