European survey on CCS and climate change reveals ignorance about CCS

This report details the findings of a survey about awareness and acceptance of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) conducted in 12 European Union countries. The countries included in the survey are Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, France, Greece, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.

CCS involves extracting CO2 in the process of power generation, or from heavy industrial operations (steel, cement etc.), compressing it and storing it permanently in depleted oil or gas fields or saline aquifers. CCS can significantly reduce the level of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere that are produced through combustion of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the cost of achieving desired climate stabilisation by 2050 will be at least 70% higher if CCS is not available and widely deployed after 2020.

Within the EU, CCS is still unknown when compared with, for example, energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This is due, in part, to the fact that little information is available and the concept requires careful explanation. The survey was therefore undertaken to establish to what extent people's awareness and acceptance of CCS has grown since the first surveys were carried out by various organisations several years ago.

Questions about the benefits of CCS, the location of storage sites, trust in different information sources, who should make decisions, and media use preferences, all give an idea of where priorities lie in terms of policy and communications. At European Union level, this knowledge will help to ensure that policy development matches expectations across a wide range of stakeholders, from the public to national governments. For ongoing and planned CCS projects, the results will help the responsible organisations to tailor their communication activities to meet stakeholder requirements, especially members of the public living close to the areas where capture, transport and storage is planned.

This survey examines people’s understanding of the issues related to climate change and their awareness and acceptance of CCS. Fieldwork was conducted in February and March 2011. Three questions on measuring how well informed people felt they were with regard to the causes of climate change, the consequences of climate change and the ways that we can fight it were also asked in an earlier Eurobarometer carried out in January and February 2009. Comparisons to these earlier measurements have been made.

In this report, we will start each chapter by describing the total results (based on all respondents in the 12 Member States that are part of the survey). These results are weighted according to the population of each country. CCS demonstration projects co-financed by the European Union are currently underway in six of these 12 Member States: the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland. There have been different levels of publicity about the projects in these Member States. A summary of the six CCS demonstration projects, which receive co-financing from the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR)1 as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan, which was implemented in part to boost the fight against climate change and to revitalise Member State economies during the recession, is provided below. There have been different levels of publicity about the projects in these Member States. The other six Member States were chosen as they either have existing CCS projects, or have been planning them, while. Greece was included due to its high domestic coal dependence.

Bulgaria: the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is sponsoring a project that should select an existing coal plant to refurbish it with a CO2 capture installation. The project also provides for researching a transport route and the storage options. Significant dependence on coal and existing coal resources make Bulgaria one of the candidates to develop CCS in the future.

Czech Republic: the energy mix still features significant presence of coal, and the electricity incumbent CEZ is considering investment in CCS.

Germany: the industrial area of Schwarze Pumpe near the city of Spremberg will host the world’s first lignite-fuelled CCS plant using oxy-fuel technology where fuel is burned in almost pure oxygen. Following successful pilot trials at Schwarze Pumpe, apart from oxyfuel technology, the Jänschwalde project will also demonstrate post-combustion capture where CO2 is captured from flue gases after fuel combustion. Storage options are evaluated both in depleted gas fields and saline aquifers onshore.

Finland: this is one of the Member States where the largest sources of CO2 emissions are from industrial installations. CCS is the only option if they want to cut these emissions. Due to limited storage potential onshore, offshore options are being researched, including shipping CO2 abroad to be used for enhanced oil recovery.

France: several projects in France are ongoing, including the Lacq project. The French Government is keen to develop the CCS technology for industrial applications (mainly steel making).

Greece: there are no plans to develop CCS projects in the immediate future, however, the Government will consider proposing some projects for funding under the European Commission's NER 300 mechanism in 2013. Moreover, the country has a high dependence on coal (over 50%) in its energy mix.

Italy: the pilot test plant at Brindisi in Southern Italy was inaugurated on 1 March 2011. Brindisi is the predecessor to the Porto Tolle demonstration project, which will test postcombustion capture on 250 MW of a new 660 MW co-firing hard coal and biomass power plant. CO2 captured in the plant will be transported for storage in a saline aquifer offshore.

The Netherlands: the ROAD project inlarge-scale demonstration project in Rotterdam (ROAD) will test post-combustion capture. Captured CO2 will then be transported for offshore storage in a depleted gas field.

Poland: the Polish Bełchatów project will demonstrate post-combustion capture on approximately one third of the CO2 stream from a new 858 MW supercritical lignite-fired unit of the existing recently built power plant. Onshore storage is envisaged in a saline aquifer.

Romania: the Getica large-scale project has recently been given the go-ahead and will be operated by a consortium led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and the Business Environment. The project involves post-combustion capture using innovative chilled ammonia technology and onshore CO2 storage in saline formations.

Spain: the Compostilla project is located in the Léon region and will use oxy-fuel capture technology. Location of the onshore storage site (saline aquifer) is still to be decided. Spain is the first Member State to have fully transposed the Directive on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.

UK: the Hatfield project is located in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Development of an offshore storage hub is planned so that in the future additional sources of CO2, including power stations and industry, in the region can be linked to shared pipelines and storage sites. CO2 will be stored in depleted oil fields.

The key learnings have been summarised in this section and a more detailed account of these findings is provided in the main body of the report.

 Only one in ten (10%) said they had heard of CCS and knew what it was; a further one in five (18%) had heard of it but did not really know what it was. Over half (52%) of respondents in the Netherlands said they had heard of CCS and knew what it was, over five times the average. The next highest level of
awareness and understanding of what was meant by CCS was in Germany (13%), Finland (12%) and the UK (11%).

 Respondents in six countries where there is a major EU co-financed CCS project were asked if they had heard of the project in their country. Just under nine out of ten (88%) said they had not heard of the project. However, awareness was significantly higher in the Netherlands where more than a third (35%) had heard of the CCS project.

 Nearly half of the respondents (47%) agree that CCS could help the combat climate change. However, only around a fourth (23%) said that they do not agree with this.

 When asked about what impact CO2 would have on the environment, however, over a third (35%) indicated that they thought the impact would be ‘very high’ and just under half (48%) thought it would have ‘a fairly high impact’.

 A high proportion of respondents felt that they ‘would not benefit’ from CCS technology if it was used in their region (38%), whilst just under a quarter (23%) thought that they ‘would benefit’.

 Generally, people would be concerned about CCS technology if an underground storage site for CO2 were to be located within 5km of their home. Overall, six in ten (61%) people would be worried, of which just under a quarter (24%) said they would be ‘very worried'.

 With regard to the decision-making process about underground CO2 storage near their homes, the most frequently cited response was that people would like to be consulted. Four in ten (39%) said ‘they would like to be directly consulted and to participate in the decision-making process’. Nearly one-fifth (19%) said that ‘they would like non-governmental organisations to be consulted and to participate in
the decision-making process’.

 For the implementation of CCS, more than three quarters (77%) felt that ‘public authorities should be able to monitor power plants’ operations to capture and store CO2’, and over two thirds (68%) felt that ‘harmonised and consistent methodologies should be developed within the EU to manage the capture and storage of CO2’.

 In terms of where CO2 storage sites should be located opinion was fairly evenly divided among those who expressed a preference. Just under a quarter indicated that they preferred onshore storage (24%), in areas of low population density. A fifth (20%) preferred an onshore storage site, close to the source where the CO2 was produced. Similarly, a fifth (21%) preferred CO2 to be stored offshore, under the seabed.

 For provision of information about CO2 storage, universities and research institutions were the most trusted, just under half (45%) trusted them. Just under a third (31%) trusted NGOs whilst just under a quarter trusted journalists (24%). The regional and local authorities are named by 23 % of respondents, the national governments by 20 % and the European Union by 14 % as trustworthy to provide information on CCS.

 Around half (49%) of respondents felt well informed about the ‘causes of climate change', a seven percentage point drop from the level recorded in 2009.

 A similar pattern emerged in terms of people’s feeling about how well informed they felt about ‘the consequences of climate change’. The proportion who felt ‘very well informed’ remained stable (8%), but the proportion who felt ‘fairly well informed’ declined by seven points (to 41%), driven by an increase in those who felt ‘not at all informed’ (from 9% to 14%).

 Just under half (46%) felt well informed about ‘the ways we can fight climate change’. There was no change in the proportion of respondents who felt ‘very well informed’ about how they could fight climate change (7%). For this statement, the proportion who felt ‘fairly well informed’ dropped by five percentage points (to 39%).

 When asked about what they thought the priorities should be for fighting climate change, three in ten (29%) mentioned the ‘development of industries supplying environmentally friendly technologies and services’ and the same proportion said ‘the promotion of cleaner cars powered by electricity or low-carbon fuels’. 25% of the respondents are in favour of ‘reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation’. Another 14 % ask for ‘taxation on CO2 emissions across the whole economy’. And, last but not least, 10 % think that the main priority should be to secure a reliable energy supply.

 Globally the biggest producers of CO2 emissions where thought to be ‘factories’, cited as the main producers of CO2 by over a third of respondents (35%). Just under three out of ten (28%) indicated that ‘power plants that burn fossil fuels’ were responsible for producing the most emissions.

 People indicated that television was their main source of information on climate change, cited by over four in five (81%). Just under half of the respondents cited newspapers (44%), whilst over a third (32%) mentioned the Internet as their main source of information.

 In order to measure respondents’ knowledge of climate change they were asked what they thought CO2 was. Half (50%) were able to correctly indicate that it was carbon dioxide. 11% indicated (incorrectly) that they thought it was carbon monoxide, a highly toxic gas.

 When presented with a series of statements that could describe CO2 the majority described it as ‘unhealthy’ (74%). 7% erroneously stated that it is 'explosive'.

 In terms of electricity production, respondents had difficulty in assessing how much produced in their country was from coal and how much came from renewable energy sources. Overall around three in ten (28%) people indicated that they ‘did not know’ what proportion of energy came from coal. Around a quarter (26%) indicated that they ‘did not know’ what proportion of electricity came from renewable energy sources. In Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands, half (50%) of the respondents thought that more than 10% of electricity produced in their countries came from renewable sources.

 There was a high level of recognition of alternative energy sources when people were presented with a list of them. The highest level of recognition was for ‘solar photovoltaic’ energy, with almost six in ten (58%) indicating that they had heard of it. Over a half (51%) had heard of ‘nuclear fusion’, whilst just under a half had heard of ‘biogas’ (48%) or ‘geothermal energy’ (47%). The lowest recognition was of ‘clean coal’ (22%) and ‘cogeneration’ (21%).

 In terms of people's attitudes towards different energy sources, people were more favourable to renewable energy sources. Over nine in ten respondents (94%) were indeed in favour of the use of ‘solar energy’ in their country and just under nine in ten were in favour of ‘wind energy’. Over four in ten (85%) were also in favour of ‘hydroelectric energy’. People were least in favour of ‘nuclear energy’, over half (54%) were opposed to it. Just under half (48%) were opposed to using coal as an energy source.

 With regard to the future, six out of ten (60%) agreed that ‘capturing and storing CO2 should be compulsory when building a new coal-fired power plant’. Over a half (55%) of people felt that ‘the storage of CO2 represents a risk in the future’. Half (49%) felt that ‘fossil fuels will still be used after the year 2050 for electricity production in the EU’. Just under half (47%) agreed that ‘the storage of CO2 will
help to combat climate change’. Just over quarter (28%) thought that ‘CCS would ensure lower and more stable energy prices’.

The full report can be consulted here.