The CEO of multinational Italian energy firm Enel has expressed doubt on the usefulness of carbon capture and storage, suggesting the technology is not a climate solution.
“We have tried and tried — and when I say ‘we’, I mean the electricity industry,” Francesco Starace told CNBC’s Karen Tso on Wednesday.
“You can imagine, we tried hard in the past 10 years — maybe more, 15 years — because if we had a reliable and economically interesting solution, why would we go and shut down all these coal plants [when] we could decarbonize the system?”
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has described carbon capture and storage as a suite of technologies focused on “capturing, transporting, and storing CO2 emitted from power plants and industrial facilities.”
The idea is to stop CO2 “reaching the atmosphere, by storing it in suitable underground geological formations.”
The Commission has said the utilization of carbon capture and storage is “important” when it comes to helping lower greenhouse gas emissions. This view is based on the contention that a substantial proportion of both industry and power generation will still be reliant on fossil fuels in the years ahead.
Enel’s Starace, however, seemed skeptical about carbon capture’s potential.
“The fact is, it doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for us so far,” he said. “And there is a rule of thumb here: If a technology doesn’t really pick up in five years — and here we’re talking about more than five, we’re talking about 15, at least — you better drop it.”
There are other climate solutions, Starace said. “Basically, stop emitting carbon,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s not worth trying again but we’re not going to do it. Maybe other industries can try harder and succeed. For us, it is not a solution.”
Carbon capture technology is often held up as a source of hope in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, featuring prominently in countries’ climate plans as well as the net-zero strategies of some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.
Climate researchers, campaigners and environmental advocacy groups, however, have long argued that carbon capture and storage technologies prolong the world’s fossil fuel dependency and distract from a much-needed pivot to renewable alternatives.