Carbon capture and storage at scale: Lessons from the growth of analogous energy technologies

  • Rai V
  • Victor D
  • Thurber M
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Abstract

At present carbon capture and storage (CCS) is very expensive and its performance is highly uncertain at the scale of commercial power plants. Such challenges to deployment, though, are not new to students of technological change. Several successful technologies, including energy technologies, have faced similar challenges as CCS faces now. To draw lessons for the CCS industry from the history of other energy technologies that, as with CCS today, were risky and expensive early in their commercial development, we have analyzed the development of the US nuclear-power industry, the US SO2-scrubber industry, and the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. Through analyzing the development of the analogous industries we arrive at three principal observations. First, government played a decisive role in the development of all of these analogous technologies. Second, diffusion of these technologies beyond the early demonstration and niche projects hinged on the credibility of incentives for industry to invest in commercial-scale projects. Third, the conventional wisdom that experience with technologies inevitably reduces costs does not necessarily hold. Risky and capital-intensive technologies may be particularly vulnerable to diffusion without accompanying reductions in cost. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Capital intensive energy technologies
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Technological diffusion and learning by doing

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