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Hydrogen+CCS Loses Climate Benefit as Renewable Energy Costs Fall


The falling cost of wind and solar could “substantially erode” the value of carbon capture and storage technologies as a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the fossil-friendly mix of hydrogen production with CCS losing up to 96% of its climate benefit, according to a new study in the journal One Earth.

“Low-cost renewables could erode the value of CCS by 15 to 96% across different energy sectors,” concludes a research team led by Neil Grant, a PhD candidate at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London. “Renewables directly compete with CCS, accelerate power sector decarbonization, and enable greater electrification of end-use sectors,” suggesting that “targeted, rather than blanket, CCS deployment represents the best strategy for achieving the Paris Agreement goals.”

A graphic accompanying the abstract by Grant and co-authors Adam Hawkes, Tamaryn Napp, and Ajay Gambhir shows a sequence that begins with cost reductions in renewable technologies, leading to three direct outcomes: renewables compete with CCS in hydrogen and electricity production, while cheaper renewables drive faster decarbonization in the power grid and electrification in various end use sectors. As a result:

• CCS with hydrogen loses 84 to 96% of its climate change mitigation value.

• CCS becomes 61 to 71% less valuable to the power sector and 31 to 35% less significant for industrial users.

• Biomass energy with CCS (BECCS) schemes, widely considered controversial in their own right, become 15 to 26% less effective as an emissions reduction strategy.

The new paper is part of a “growing school of thought” arguing that “rapid cost reductions in renewables reduce the need for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in mitigation pathways,” the four authors write in their abstract.

“CCS retains value for decarbonizing industry and removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and targeted CCS deployment should be prioritized,” they add. “Further research could assess the value of CCS using a broader range of sustainability metrics, such as land, material, and health impacts.”