19.1 CCS: the next technological lock-in?

Philip J. Vergragt , Tellus Institute, Boston, MA, United States
Full Papers
  • Vergragt JACC 09 CCS.pdf (237.2 kB)
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is now propagated widely by policy makers, NGOs, and academics as a quick mitigation option for the large-scale curbing of greenhouse gas emissions. Its quick emergence in the last 3-4 years stands in shrill contrast with the decades-long slow emergence of renewable energy options and energy conservation. Moreover, CCS is sold as a ‘bridge' or ‘transitional' technology to ‘buy time' for a large-scale transition to sustainable energy generating options.

    In this paper we will criticize this emerging paradigm, using the Dutch (and possibly a few other countries') case as an example. CCS should rather be conceptualized as a new strategy by incumbent fossil fuel industries to consolidate their grip on the market. The concept of bridge or transitional technology is unknown in technology dynamics and innovation studies. Rather than being a ‘bridge' technology, large-scale investments in CCS installations will prove to help continue the fossil fuel trajectory and hamper the development of alternatives. Its quick rise to prominence is an indicator for a renewed ‘lock-in' of fossil-fuel based energy technologies.

    Rather than massive large-scale investments in CCS, this paper pleads for a cautionary approach of multi-stakeholder experimentation and learning, keeping in mind that CCS should only be used where other options are not feasible, possibly in countires like India and China. Development for those markets should be a co-development together with European and US countries and companies. For the US and Europe however, CCS will hamper the quick and large-scale development of renewables, many of whom are market-ready or nearly so.