decarbonise
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Scientists reveal that carbon emissions into the atmosphere exacerbates the effect of climate change. The effects are being felt through severe weather patterns as many countries are seeing extreme droughts, flooding, and fires.

In this Q&A with ESI Africa, Dr Tony Surridge, the general manager for Cleaner Fossil Fuels at SANEDI in South Africa, unpacks some of the guidelines that can be employed to control carbon emissions.

What should be the guiding principles in the developing world to reducing the carbon intensity of these emerging economies?

Emerging economies need to balance development with environmental concerns. The first ‘attack’ should be energy efficiency – undertaking the same activity and using less energy can save money that can be used for other developments.

It is also possible to switch new plants to low-carbon intensity and at the same time to create jobs and add to the GDP – e.g. renewable energies and carbon dioxide utilisation.

What is the scale of the R&D effort needed to develop game-changing, low-carbon energy technologies, and how will the costs of these efforts be paid for?

Mitigating carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is a global matter (anthropogenic forcing of global climate change). The global R&D community is very eager to share low-C research results, and in some cases, there are international funds to finance such.

In any new technology development such as low-C, it is usual for governments to fund such research, either through direct finance or incentive finance. There are many international organisations that will assist such research as well as assist lobbying.

How should regulation help in fast-tracking the adoption of decarbonisation? What are the practical incentives that governments can offer businesses to embrace net-zero emissions reduction targets?

Similar to de-smoke, de-SOx, de-NOx, regulations are required to provide for operation licenses to include emission limitations.

De-carbon is similar, except that de-C is a global matter whereas de-smoke, de-SOx, do-NOx are local/regional matters. It is possible to de-C through energy efficiency measures and CO2-utilisation.

Direct CO2-utilisation for products such as:

  • Enhanced plant growth
  • Food/beverages
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Concrete curing
  • Enhanced oil/gas recovery

Conservation (RE):

  • Synthetic fuels
  • Micro-algae
  • Chemicals
  • Fertilisers

With regard to efficiency, the South African government offers tax breaks to commerce and industry for increased energy efficiency (and hence lower emissions).

The positive results, in this case, show that the energy efficiency rebate has benefitted commerce and industry to R23 billion over seven years – and has resulted in emission savings of 24,685,162 t CO2 from October 2013.

How can businesses extract value from decarbonisation?

If/when CO2 emission limitations regulations are introduced, then a ‘license to operate’ can be issued.

On the other hand, it is also possible to profit from decarbonisation through energy efficiency measures, CO2 utilisation, market profile as a company concerned about the environment et al.

These questions were posed by audience members of an ESI Africa virtual discussion but not addressed during the live event on the topic of Decarbonisation: Making a net-zero economy possible, where Dr Surridge participated as a panellist.