Coal still has no place in clean development
You knew it had to happen: the World Bank now has the same climate sensibility as … the Kansas House.
Scientist Jim Hansen, on the other hand, has requested a meeting with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, arguing for a moratorium on coal plants until carbon capture and storage technology is available. Even Wall Street looks on coal skeptically. Last Friday, the Kansas House failed to override Sebelius’ veto of two new plants by only one vote. And the World Bank is considering funding a massive coal plant in India in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
Yes, you read that correctly: a larger-than-ever coal plant in a developing giant is considered a mechanism for clean development. Why? Because it will burn more efficiently than other coal plants in India. In fact, it boasts ‘supercritical‘ technology.
The project uses supercritical coal technology, which has been approved by CDM-Executive Board as a “Clean Development Mechanism” for power projects in India. Due to the use of this technology and choice of unit sizes, the thermal efficiency of the project (LHV, gross) will be higher by about 70 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent as compared to the average thermal efficiency (LHV, gross) of coal based power plants in India, across the globe and OECD. Therefore, the project will result in reducing the average carbon emissions of India’s electricity generation system per unit of electricity supply.
This just a few months after a major announcement in the Financial Times of a clean technology fund administered by the World Bank to facilitate the transfer of clean energy technology from developed to developing countries.
Returning to the Indian coal plant (Tata Ultra Mega), how comfortable is the climate policy community with its construction as a clean development mechanism? It certainly harps on the point that the dire need for efficiency in developed countries is much different, intuitively, than the argument for efficient generation and pollution in developing countries.
So, between efficient development and clean development, clean development is obviously preferred, but is efficient development suitable, and under what conditions?
The World Bank explains,
Since the most technologically proven method of reducing GHG emissions is improving power plants efficiency, IFC [International Finance Corporation] is giving high priority to funding more efficient power projects which will reduce the carbon emissions intensity in the country and reduce the average overall environmental impact of the country’s power generation system.
David Wheeler, from the Center for Global Development, has spelled out an argument against the World Bank’s rationale. Wheeler points out that the project is essentially obsolete on the part of the World Bank, because supercritical coal plants in India are on the rise without this additional boost. This investment is not worth international resources. He also points to the potential for solar energy in the region that the plant is proposed, and has argued that baseload solar power is technologically possible.
Just some thoughts to chew on. This is an opportune context to consider technology as an instrument of international policy.