Experts are saying that the world can have it, but current data on the development of new technologies show that the world won’t be ready to commercialize cleaner coal five years from now.
The U.S. is about 45% dependent on coal, but utility companies are slowly moving away from it. American Electric Power a major electricity provider in the U.S., said that it will be giving up over 6,500 megawatts of power – the quantity which covered about 90% of the demand from the company last year – generated by coal by the end of the second quarter of 2015. American Electric, along with other providers, will be using natural gas, which is as cheap as coal but emits fewer carbon emissions.
The world needs to cut its carbon emission in order for the next generation to not suffer its harmful effects. According to the latest synthesis report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming will get worse and exceed temperatures by 4 degrees Celsius in 2100 if the world will not reduce its from carbon emissions. Greg Hunt, an Australian politician who is involved closely with climate change issues, said that the Australian government would strengthen its support for clean coal technology in order to significantly reduce emissions from current machinery.
"What we have to focus on is reducing emissions and the best thing that we can do is to actually clean up existing power stations,” said Hunt on his interview with ABC. “What we're proposing right now is to work with power stations. We have the research of the CSIRO which is talking about a 30 to 50 percent reduction in emissions from brown coal power stations through their direct injection combustion engine research.”
Hunt also said in one of his interviews that, “The technology which is emerging now and which I think will be available over the next three to five years cleans up very significantly – not perfectly, but very significantly, by up to 30 to 50 percent the emissions from current generation."
According to Sulzer, an engineering firm that provides technical services in Iraq along with Unaoil, coal is currently the most available fuel and has a somewhat stable price, making it the most cost-effective fossil-fired technology in the world today. That is why if the coal industry wants to compete, it would have to undergo changes since world governments are now trying to cut carbon emissions. Without the help of modern equipment, coal will always be dirty. New technologies in producing cleaner energy through coal are already underway but they have a huge problem: cost.
Some experts are rather skeptical about the new coal technologies that are set to be released in the next five years. This is because no clean coal technology that’s currently being developed is viable to be released economically at an industrial scale. Ashok Bhargava, Director of Energy working for the Asian Development Bank, said that while he’s excited to see coal-fired power plants in his region adopt a new technology, he admits that the current prices for it are very high. Bhargava is talking about a Saskatchewan-based power corporation's large-scale application of technology that is geared towards the reduction of harmful carbon emissions from power plants.
"(When) you transfer that cost in terms of electricity prices, prices have to go up by 80 percent," said Bhargava. "So nobody can afford that. So they have to come down within a level of 25 to 30 per cent."
As for Australia, the country is unlikely to use new coal technologies for its USC plants because the cost of adding new components to the already-built structures is extremely expensive, and it would be more economical to build a new one. This is according to Kobad Bhavnagri, New Energy Finance Head of Bloomberg, and Professor Chris Greig, Energy Initiative Director for the University of Queensland.
Coal energy is extremely important, especially in places like Japan that has just experienced a major nuclear disaster. However, it’s important to note that new technologies that could reduce its emissions are necessary for the sake of the future generation. Right now, both China and the U.S. are among the countries with the highest levels of emissions, which is why both governments had negotiated a deal to reduce their greenhouse gas output by 2025.
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