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Brussels, 10 January 2007

Aiming towards a low CO2 fossil fuel future

Climate protection involves making the most efficient use possible of our available energy sources. The potential to increase the efficiency of converting coal into electricity must therefore be exploited in Europe and worldwide. Furthermore, the technologies for the capture and permanent storage of carbon dioxide produced by power plants must be developed further and used more widely. As part of its Energy Policy for Europe, the European Commission has adopted today a Communication on how to generate power from fossil fuels in a sustainable manner with a focus on sustainable coal technologies – these will enable coal to maintain its important contribution to secure and competitive energy supplies for Europe.

Coal and gas account for over 50% of the EU's electricity supply and will remain an important part of our energy mix. If the EU is to achieve its long term climate change objectives, much cleaner coal technologies and a significant reduction of CO2 emission will be necessary. Furthermore, developing clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies is crucial at the international level: it is expected that twice as much electricity as today will be produced world-wide from coal by 2030. This will in turn bring new opportunities for European export as well.

In order to make sustainable fossil fuels a reality after 2020, the EU must establish a favourable regulatory framework for the development of these novel technologies, invest more, and more efficiently, into research, as well as take international action. The EU Emission Trading Scheme will also need to incorporate capture and storage in the future.

The Commission will in 2007 start work to:

  • Design a mechanism to stimulate the construction and operation by 2015 of up to 12 large-scale demonstrations of sustainable fossil fuel technologies in commercial power generation in the EU;
  • Provide a clear perspective when coal- and gas-fired power plants will need to install CO2 capture and storage. Today, the Commission believes that by 2020 all new coal-fired plants should include CO2 capture and storage technologies and existing plants should then progressively follow the same approach.

Fossil fuels represent an important element of the energy mix in the European Union as well as in many other economies. Coal is traditionally the key fossil fuel in power generation and by far the most carbon-intensive one. Coal can contribute to the security of energy supply and the economy of the EU and the world only with technologies allowing for a drastic reduction of its harmful environmental effects.

Clean Coal technologies, which increase efficiency and reduce polluting emissions, are widely used in the power generation sector of the most advanced countries today. Further progress towards novel technological solutions, which also incorporate the concepts of CO2 capture and storage in coal-based power generation, is anticipated by 2020 so that after 2020 "near zero emission" power generation can be systematically used in the EU and in the world.

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