Sunday, April 26, 2009

Germany to have coal power plants with the least CO2 emissions?

Coal power plants are among the most significant source of CO2 emissions, and mostly responsible for global warming and climate change. Coal is often described as the dirtiest energy source, and if world wants to tackle global warming and climate change coal related emissions would have to be significantly reduced. Though many agree that world should stop relying so much on coal this won't be so easy to do because coal is among the cheapest energy sources, and many developing countries (China, India) have based their industries and economies almost entirely on coal. Therefore it is very unlikely that world will say goodbye to coal power plants, the most likely solution is that world will look to improve efficiency of current power plants, mostly by using carbon capture and storage technology. Germany's example should give us few starting points.

Germany's coal importers association VDIK recently announced how Germany's coal plants will emit a total of just 21mn t CO2 per year in 2050, thereby becoming the nation with the least CO2 emissions resulting from coal power plants.

Germany's coal fired power plants intend to reduce their CO2 emissions from a total 115mn t in 2008-09, to just 21mn t in 2050 — which is an incredible 81 percent cut — according to a thoroughly described VDIK study presented to public. Such significant CO2 reduction will be mostly based on increasingly efficient coal power plant technology, and also on implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which should be gradually introduced in ten years time, starting from 2020. Hamburg-based coal importers association VDIK expects coal fired plant capacity to remain stable at around 29,000MW but of course with significantly less CO2 emissions.

Biggest coal power station in Germany, near Cologne. Click on picture for full size. By TheoWasserhess, Panoramio.

Until carbon capture and storage technology is ready to be gradually introduced starting from 2020, the emphasis will be solely on increasing the effectiveness of current technologies. Germans have calculated that increasingly efficient technology should reduce emissions by 14 percent by 2015. By that time, 70 percent of power is likely to be replaced by new power plants that are now either under construction, or planned. In 2030, 30 percent of total German coal powered plants should be equipped with carbon capture and storage technology; this number should increase in 2040 to 60 percent, and in 2050 it should reach 100 percent.

If we look at the current numbers they say how the average German coal powered power plant is approximately 30 years old, and has a relatively low efficiency of just 38 percent. This is really a small efficiency compared to modern coal powered power plants that have efficiency of 46 percent, and save 20 percent of coal, and also emit 20 percent less CO2. Coal plants with implemented carbon capture and storage technology should emit another 77 percent less CO2 than these efficient new plants.

This German example should give valuable guidelines to many developing countries that use coal as their primary coal. The solution to less emission is clearly carbon capture and storage technology, and improved efficiency of current technologies. But to use these technologies developing countries will not only need necessary knowledge on how to use them but also a lot of money for implementation. This of course cannot be done without the help of rich countries. We must not forget that less CO2 emissions will benefit the whole planet, not only developing countries.


Anonymous said...

Where did you find that the average efficiency of German coal fired plants is 38%.

Davor Habjanec said...

This information is from following pages:

Siemens - Coal-fired Power Plant with 50% Efficiency Rating

From COMTES700 to the Power Plant of the Future