Energy is an enabler of economic growth, development and progress. Affordable, reliable and accessible electricity is the foundation of prosperity in the modern world. Coal helps provide this – and is needed to help bring electricity to everyone. According to World Coal Association report, High Efficiency Low Emission (HELE) technologies are a group of technologies developed to increase the amount of energy that can be generated from a coal plant while decreasing emissions. HELE coal technology has the potential to make a huge impact to reducing emissions.
Raising the average global efficiency of coal plants from 33 per cent to 40 per cent would save two gigatonnes of CO2 emissions. These two gigatonnes would be far more effective than many of the climate actions we have already taken.
HELE technologies are important because they are also a vital first step towards carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) which stores CO2 underground. To continue working under the assumption that fossil fuels can be substituted in the next three decades is likely to lead to less efficient technology being deployed threatening the ability to deliver global climate objectives. We need all energy sources to meet global energy needs and we need all low emission technologies to reduce emissions and meet climate objectives.
The support for CCUS so far has been disappointing. To make CCUS a reality, it needs the same type of support as renewables get. The foundation of the COP21 Paris Agreement is the commitments countries made in the leadup to the summit. Nations choose the energy mix that fits them – for many that includes coal, particularly developing economies.
19 countries, representing 44% of the world’s emissions committed to reducing emissions from coal-based energy generation and agreed that they will deploy HELE coal technologies to support their emission reductions. That means by 2040, coal will still be a big part of the world’s electricity mix. And for the Paris Agreement to be successful, we must support low emission coal.