Federal Policy Influencers 2019 Survey: A Bright Outlook for Clean Energy & Carbon Capture
30th April 2019
With US CO2 emissions growth outpacing global emissions growth and many Americans already experiencing the impacts of climate change, policy makers in Washington have begun drafting policy statements and principles for comprehensive climate policy. A year after the US passed the most progressive carbon capture and storage incentive policy globally – a tax credit also known as 45Q – lawmakers are also looking to develop further policies to support the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage.
To support stakeholders, policy influencers, and lawmakers throughout the process of formulating carbon capture-supportive policies as well as more effectively communicate as advocates, the Global CCS Institute has commissioned a federal policy influencer survey in Washington, DC. The goal is to improve the understanding of support for climate action and carbon emissions reduction technologies such as carbon capture and storage. Polling 100 policy influencers, 50 from the private sector and 50 from the public sector, the survey provides insights into perceptions of the US energy transition, including the role of government, and the understanding of carbon capture technologies.
The results are encouraging: In pursuit of realistic climate solutions, policy influencers seem to have abandoned technology favoritism, an approach that has been strengthened by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Report on Global Warming of 1.5C released in October 2018. 64 percent of respondents answered that the future of US energy needs to include all forms of clean energy rather than just renewables or fossil fuels. There is also broad agreement among respondents that the US should pursue low-carbon technologies, and that all options must be on the table, albeit clean is the most important energy quality.
Broad support for carbon capture
From the survey, which included respondents across the political spectrum, carbon capture emerges as a centrist solution for reducing emissions, with support from both sides of the aisle, and from diverse public and private sector stakeholders. Buttressing the recent wave of ENGO announcements in support for carbon capture technologies, the study reveals that 67 percent of people who consider themselves environmentalists support government efforts to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage technologies, up from 64 percent two years ago.
Demonstrating understanding of the global energy system’s rigidity, and that dependence on fossil fuels is likely to persist through mid-century, influencers are equally open to applications in both electricity and industry. Carbon capture and storage is also generally perceived as safe and potential risks appear acceptable, and this perception has improved in comparison to two years ago.
Communicating policy priorities
For the majority of policy influencers surveyed, it is very important to understand how carbon capture and storage fits into the set of tools and approaches to address climate change. On the road to net-zero emissions by mid-century, carbon capture can help the world get across the finish line to zero emissions. Carbon capture is also the only suite of technologies available to eliminate CO2 from hard-to-abate industrial sectors such as cement and steel. In the electricity sector, it will not stand in the way of exponential renewable energy deployment but is expected to be able to balance renewables’ intermittent nature. Reforming of natural gas (SMR) equipped with carbon capture and storage is a proven and deployed way to produce hydrogen, a clean fuel largely seen as the clean energy vector of the future.
Yet, to enable large-scale deployment, more policies are needed. In general, an overwhelming majority of 86 percent of policy influencers surveyed agree that government funding to meet carbon emissions goals are necessary. 63 percent support the US government’s direct support either politically, financially, and scientifically to deploy carbon capture and storage. Many think that the best way to do so is through funding R&D. Whilst R&D funding is important, deployment is equally important, as carbon capture is deployment-ready today. 60 percent of influencers also agree that there is not a decisive business case rewarding businesses for investments in CO2 elimination, requiring government investment. 1/3 of respondents do so strongly.
It follows that policy and government investment will be the most important drivers for creating a business case to invest in carbon capture. Therefore, policy influencers should focus on communicating the importance of government support for large-scale carbon capture deployment within any effort to address climate change. In fact, the Global CCS Institute recently released a policy priorities report that analyzed the enabling mechanisms of the 23 large-scale carbon capture facilities in operation and under construction. The report highlights the important role of government in pricing the externalities of pollution and while in the US, 45Q functions as a value on carbon – providing $50 t/CO2 stored geologically and $35 t/CO2 stored via enhanced oil recovery – further policies are needed to enable the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage through reducing the cost of debt as well as project-related risks.
With carbon capture back on the agenda as part of larger climate discussions in the US, streamlining communications efforts is important for the mission to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies within the energy transition and globally. The study, with encouraging results, provides a glimpse of information on how to inform about carbon capture more effectively.
Guloren Turan is the Global CCS Institute’s General Manager for Advocacy and Communications and based in the Institute’s UK office.