Filed under: News | Tags: clean and sustainable technologies, clean coal, cleantech, coal tech 2009
Griffith Hack’s IP management consultant Mike Lloyd has just returned from the Coal Tech 2009 conference held in Brisbane, and came back a clean coal converted man:
Coal is sometimes used as the whipping boy in the clean energy debate, but the coal industry and its supporters are showing there are a number of options for dramatically improving its greenhouse gas emissions. Coal is undoubtedly important for Australia, providing about 75% of its power at an internationally competitive price, $43 billion worth of export income and 8% of its GDP. It also produces over one third of our greenhouse gases. Coal is also very important on a international scale, providing a key power source in many countries. Regardless of what its detractors may wish for, coal will be with us for many years to come.
A broad range of technologies are or have been developed to reduce emissions from coal mining and consumption, and some of these look close to being commercial ready. Coal’s relatively high greenhouse gas profile may actually help their adoption. Zero greenhouse gas emissions from clean coal technologies, while possibly being desirable in the long term, may not be necessary to achieve a significant overall reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gases emissions. Instead even a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the coal industry may be enough to have a helpful overall impact, and should be achievable in practice.
Nonetheless a big hurdle remains before these technologies are widely adopted. Some of these technologies require multi-billion dollar investments. Many of these investments may be unlikely in the current Australian political uncertainty regarding long term carbon emission pricing. Until these uncertainties are resolved, it will be difficult for the coal users to make either high emission or low emission investments in coal technologies. High emission investments will hobbled by the potential for high carbon pricing – low emission investments will be hobbled by the potential for low carbon pricing and how this will affect their business case. Maybe if the world can achieve a consensus on carbon policies during the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Australia’s politicians can in turn agree on the long term policies required to underpin major new investments in this area.