Cheap energy as well as modern and more efficient infrastructure are the foundations for sustainable economic growth. An increase by a country’s energy infrastructure would reflect its increase in its GDP.
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Investment in climate friendly infrastructure is viewed to be the basis for achieving environmental sustainability, economic growth as well as efficient management and mitigation of future environmental hazards and associated risks.
Modern and efficient energy infrastructure is likely to increase the levels of employment in most countries; many industries will be established to support geothermal, solar, wind as well as energy infrastructure initiatives.
The current green energy investments on alternative energy fall short of the required levels. A significant percentage of population lives in urban centres today, thus creating the increasing need to develop alternative sustainable energy sources.
Attempts to address the global climatic change that has resulted from fossil fuel use have led to technological advances as well as development of better environmental policies. Although there exists a gap between the measures currently in place and what can be done, technology is expected to drastically reduce pollution arising from fossil fuel power plants.
Previous findings and the observable undertakings by governments and societies have indicated that there are no economic and technological barriers to achieving clean renewable energy. It all depends on the political and societal will.
The century-scale indicates that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, plants and even in the biomass is dauntingly large. The amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere is about 8 Gt per year (Lackner 2010, 52). This would soon begin distributing itself gradually into the mobile carbon pools which include the atmosphere, ocean as well as the biosphere thus interfering with the systems equilibrium.
Over half of the CO2 that is emitted remains in the atmosphere and can become very difficult to remove from the atmosphere once it has entered the mobile carbon pool. High levels of CO2 cause immobilization by geological weathering which makes situations even more difficult.
These situations will continue to rise as long there is substantial emission of CO2 and therefore stabilizing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere requires that we stop its emission from fossil fuels. Such steps would lead to a gradual decline of the amount of CO2 level in the atmosphere. Another important approach to reduce the emission of CO2 is through Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) (Lackner (a) 49).
Reduction of emission of greenhouse gases should encompass all the sources of fossil fuels in favour of other alternative efficient and renewable energy sources. This should include coal, petroleum and the natural gas. According to Lackner ((a) 50) particular fossil fuels will have to be outlawed especially in most developed countries in the coming years if CCS is not adopted.
The Status of Capture Technology
Currently, the CO2 capture technologies that exist are mainly meant for commercial purposes particularly in the petroleum as well as petrochemical industries. It has been applied in coal-fired boilers as well as in gas-fired boilers; however, the amount of capture has been less as compared to the expected capture from power plants with the net capture efficiency ranging between 80% and 90%.
One major step that has not been achieved in electric power plants is integration of capture, storage as well as transport, although this has been tested in industrial applications. Today, research and demonstration programs on CO2 capture are ongoing in many countries and institutions worldwide to develop better and lower-cost technologies.
Most programs are aimed at developing technologies that are able to reduce costs by about 20% to 30% in short term and to even develop technologies which are able to reduce the costs in longer term. Plants that are using current the technologies incur higher costs than the estimated costs for more efficient carbon capture technologies (Rubin 10).
According to Rubin (20) achieving energy efficiency depends on the use of renewable energy, adoption of CCS, substitution of goal with gas, adoption of nuclear energy as well as conservation and ensuring energy efficiency.
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According to IPCC’s MESSAGE Model, conservation of energy resources aught to have started even before 2005; adoption of renewable energy sources should have also began by 2005; adoption of CCS should begin between 2025 and 2030 while substitution of coal to gas should begin in 2035. In the MiniCAM Model in the same report, adoption of nuclear energy should begin by 2025 (IPCC 23).
In both models, carbon emissions are expected to reach the highest level of about 35,000 million tonnes of CO2 in 2035 as new alternatives and technologies are still at the initial stages of implementation.
Both models also show that carbon emissions will gradually reduce over the decades that follow after the climax in 2035 such that by about 2095, carbon dioxide emissions will be slightly above 20,000 million tones of CO2 as the global level of technology adoption increases (Rubin 20).
Development of Efficient Technologies
Adopting the technologies mentioned above in an effort to achieve efficient energy which are economically feasible and are generally accepted by the public requires that these technologies be designed and tested before being implemented.
Research phase is the first stage and would involve understanding of the basic science in each technology proposed. This phase of conceptual design as well as testing in pilot plant at the bench scale is currently underway in most environmental and scientific institutions across the world.
The second phase is demonstration where the technology that has been developed and tested at the level of a pilot plant is tried to check its limitations so that more developments and improvements can be made to make it more efficient for the purpose. It is therefore reconstructed for a full-scale system.
The third phase involves testing the economic feasibility of the technology under the specific conditions that it is expected to operate in. it is tested in selected commercial applications or in specific environmental conditions. Possibility of replications of that technology is also tested. Replication of every technology is very important as we aim to achieve global energy efficiency.
The final stage is the mature market phase where the technology is now adopted with multiple replications for commercial-scale technology across the globe. The developed technology can therefore be implemented in every country in the world. Most of these technologies should be available for use by around 2020 and 2025.
Carbon dioxide Capture Technologies
Efforts aimed at reducing CO2 emission should begin by considering the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the big power plants. Carbon dioxide capture is technically feasible although it may reduce the efficiency of the power plants (Brennan & Lackner 361). Thus CO2 storage tanks should be designed to enhance the efficiency of these power plants as they also help eliminate emission of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Efficient carbon dioxide capture would leave only flue gas that contains nitrogen and residual oxygen from the air as well as water vapour and small quantities of pollutants which should also not be released into the atmosphere (Brennan & Lackner 361).
This implies that achieving zero emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases as well as pollutants into the atmosphere should involve designing carbon dioxide capture storage systems which have no flue stack such that the waste products that come from the industries would be in liquid or solid form. These by-products could be used in other related industries.
This process ensures that there is no emission of CO2 into the atmosphere as CO2 is produced for sequestration. This process is applicable to industries that use coal power as their source of energy.
Hydrogen is used to capture CO2 through gasification process which also involves the use of lime. The plant would therefore produce electricity in the form of solid oxide fuel cells which also help produce the required heat for extracting carbon dioxide from the lime (Lackner (a) 53).
Another efficient and feasible method for carbon storage is the geological storage which has been applied by most oil companies. Reservoir engineering could be used to develop efficient injection technology. The cost of implementing of this technology is relatively low.
Since large scale injection of carbon dioxide may also result into other environmental effects, it is important to develop strong regulatory framework to ensure efficient technologies and standard monitoring procedures through the use of C14 isotope (Brennan & Lackner 363).
Site selection should be done careful and remediation methods should also be developed to control release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, should such problems arise. Geological storage security relies on the physical and geochemical trappings of the CO2.
Over time, CO2 is trapped in the minerals, in the underground water and in the pores within the rocks. Efficient geological reservations have the capacity to retain over 99% in about 100 years and this capability may drop slightly as the duration increases to over 1000 years (Rubin 24).
Carbon dioxide capture and storage which involves these large concentrated sources do not address all the emissions into the atmosphere. Achieving zero emission into the atmosphere require that we address emission of CO2 from other sources like machines and automobiles which mainly use petroleum.
This means that a capture technology to collect CO2 directly from the atmosphere has to be developed or another alternative would be to outlaw the use of petroleum altogether in the next coming years. Direct capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would help deal with every kind of emission. It will encompass CO2 released from all sources including the storage sites (Lackner (a) 54).
Air capture would help deal with emissions from cars, planes as well as the small percentages that escape from power plants. Carbon capture could possibly help in reducing the level of CO2 to pre-industrial level which is about 280 ppm without dropping the use of fossil fuel (Lackener (a) 5). Direct carbon capture would efficiently cope with the CO2 emissions which would help achieve cost-effective energy source.
Carbon capture separates CO2 sources from sinks making it easier to collect CO2 from every part of the world since the gas has the capacity to mix and spread very fast across the globe (Lackner & Sachs 256).
Regulatory Framework for Adoption of CCS
It is essential to improve the storage capacity of estimates beginning from the local to the global level. It is therefore important to understand the long-term storage, leakage as well as mitigation processes through regulatory framework.
According to the International Energy Agency (9) CCS regulatory development should involve reviewing as well as adapting to the existing legal regulatory framework so as to control demonstration projects across countries. This should be done in phases and the first phase should be OECD countries by 2011, non-OECD countries by 2013 and finally in non-OECD countries which have the potential for CCS by 2015.
Each country should be able to evaluate its existing legal frameworks concerning CCS activities and their ability to effectively regulate CCS. Each country should also identify barriers as well as gaps that may hinder adoption of CCS and therefore develop comprehensive regulatory framework by 2020.
At the international level, regulatory framework should be developed to address legal issues of monitoring as well as verification procedure for CO2. It should also address transboundary CO2 transfer as is entailed in the London Protocol by 2012 (International Energy Agency 9). Regulatory framework should address Carbon dioxide capture, transportation as well as storage.
It should address protection of human health and marine environment; it should regulate site selection as well as transboundary movement and transport of carbon dioxide; it should clearly stipulate the requirements for monitoring, reporting plus verification; and should also define the role of the environmental departments.
The regulatory framework should define all the corrective measures to be taken incase of leakages of CO2 (International Energy Agency 10).
Adoption of Renewable Sources
No single technology is able to help the world achieve net zero emission of CO2 (Lackner & Sachs 259). Achieving stabilization would also involve the adoption of alternative renewable sources to reduce the overreliance on fossil fuels.
Hydroelectricity is one energy source that has been exploited in almost every country to support energy-intensive industries as it provides cost-effective form of energy. However, its production is threatened by the increasing global climatic change.
Achieving sustainability requires that measures which include regulatory framework and change of lifestyle towards the environment be taken to conserve the available watersheds across the world (Lackner & Sachs 271).
Wind energy provides the most environmentally friendly electricity. However, its dilute nature limits its exploitation. Efficient extraction of the kinetic energy in the wind requires large installations of the wind power systems. Larger installations provide efficient means of extracting the kinetic energy at greater vertical scales. It will also require energy injection in the area of wind energy extraction (Lackner (b) 21).
The potential for geothermal exploitation is high although it is still limited to few regions in the world. However, the many mining places that exist in the world can provide heat energy from the rocks to supplement the naturally emitted geothermal energy (Lackner (b) 22-23).
Solar energy adoption has been limited by the low average power output. At present, solar panels are not able to store substantial amounts electricity. The energy that is generated through the solar panels is mainly for immediate demand.
Achieving efficient solar energy would require that the solar energy conversion technology be improved to produce electricity that can undercut coal electricity by a reasonable factor (Lackner (b) 24). The chemical energy produced should be able to satisfy more than immediate demands.
Fossil Fuels with CCS
Fossil fuels remain the most currently available energy resource. Although the amount of high grade fossil fuels seems to have reduced, low grade hydrocarbon could still be efficiently exploited as long carbon capture and storage is applied and made efficient. More research should focus on finding new coal deposits and improving extraction technology.
Combination of fossil fuel consumption with CO2 capture and storage will help address emission concerns. CO2 capture in power plants would also help address other effluents released from the power plants such as sulfur, ash and other pollutants.
Gasification should be adopted in the underground mining of coal to mobilize gases which need to be controlled as well as to avoid extraction of materials which are not needed. Fossil fuel consumption while applying CO2 capture would help achieve zero emission from the power plants (Lackner (b) 27).
Most developed countries have already adopted nuclear energy with France being the largest nuclear energy consumer. Other countries include United States and Japan among others. However, the adoption has been slow due to the questions raised about disposal of its waste as well as the quantity of uranium deposits.
To expand nuclear energy, it is important to adopt nuclear fusion as well as breeding of fuel from natural thorium and uranium. It should also involve fuel reprocessing in order to reduce wastes. However, these processes raise security issues which can only be addressed through creation of institutional framework to address internalisation of fuel cycle (Lackner (b) 24).
Regulatory Framework needed to adopt Nuclear Energy
The legal regulatory framework should address safety installations of nuclear power plants, environmental protection, nuclear liability and waste as well as radiation and the associated radioactive materials. Internationally, laws governing nuclear security should be established and this must include non-proliferation laws as well as decommissioning law.
Necessary Lifestyle Changes
In order to achieve zero carbon homes, many forms of lifestyles have to change. First, people need to be more receptive to renewable energy sources as well as efficient energy technologies. People have to adopt measures for conserving water as well as energy. Thus, we have to minimize wastes. Again we have to be willing to acquire more information on new energy technologies and conservation measures.
New houses that are constructed should exclude luxuries which lead to extra consumption of energy. Besides, we need to purchase automobiles which are energy efficient. This would also help change manufacturing trends to ensure that automobiles and other machineries brought into the market are energy efficient.
People should also focus on developing alternatives to timber usage in order to limit deforestation and instead plant more forests and trees to conserve the watersheds and the biosphere. Adopting agro-ecological agriculture would also help limit agricultural emissions.
Stabilizing the environment needs careful efforts which are guided by legal institutional and regulatory frameworks and enhanced by efficient energy technologies adopted across the globe.
It requires collaboration between governments, the industrial and finance sectors, research institutions and technology providers as well as environmental institutions. Adoption of CO2 capture and storage should be supported by use of other environmentally friendly energy sources as well as change of lifestyle. That way, achieving stabilization becomes feasible.
Brennan, Sarah and Lackner,Klaus. Sarah. Envisioning Carbon capture and storage: expanded possibilities due to air capture, leakage insurance, and C14 monitoring. Climate Change Journal, 96.3 (2009): 357-378. Dordretch: Springer.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC special report on carbon dioxide capture and storage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.
International Energy Agency. Carbon capture and storage: Model regulatory framework. Paris: OCED/IEA. 2010. 02 January, 2011. https://webstore.iea.org/carbon-capture-and-storage-model-regulatory-framework
Lackner, Klaus (a). Carborn & storage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lackner, Klaus (b). Comparative Impacts of Fossil Fuels and Alternative Energy Sources, in Issues in Environmental Science and Technology: Carbon Capture, Sequestration and Storage, edited by R. E. Hester, and R.M. Harrison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2010 Print.
Lackner, Klaus and Sachs, Jeffrey. A Robust Strategy for Sustainable Energy. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2005. 2:2005(2): p. 215-284. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Rubin, Edward. The IPCC special report on carbon dioxide capture and storage. Pittsburg: Carnegie Mellon University. 2005. Print.