Earlier today, the Energy Futures Initiative and Stanford University released a new joint report that provides policymakers in California with an action plan for realizing the significant decarbonization opportunities presented by use of carbon, capture and storage (CCS) technology within the state. The results of the study add to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that CCS is a viable and important near-term option for California in meeting its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets in 2030 and beyond.

California has positioned itself as a national and global leader on climate change. Its GHG reduction goals are legally binding and scientifically informed to achieve the deep, economy-wide emission reductions that the scientific consensus says are needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. After achieving its renewable generation and 2020 GHG reduction goals ahead of schedule, California is now facing more challenging policy questions of how to achieve deep decarbonization by mid-century and carbon neutrality even sooner (by 2045), while continuing to grow and sustain its diverse economy.

Today’s joint report outlines a series of steps policymakers should take to remove development roadblocks and unlock opportunities for CSS to help California achieve greater reductions sooner from hard-to-abate sectors, such as chemicals, transportation fuels and cement. It highlights the role, for example, that hydrogen production paired with CCS – to generate what’s known as “blue hydrogen” – can play in reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, in advance of wide-scale electrification of the transportation sector. It also describes how the addition of CCS to natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants could help reduce total system costs by reducing curtailment of renewables and avoiding the need to overbuild intermittent renewable and storage resources, while providing the clean firm generation needed to meet demand, as the electricity sector is increasingly relied upon to abate emissions from other sectors.

The report explains how CCS is uniquely suited to the state, given its vast geographic storage potential, and offers a realistic near-term solution for large sources that cannot otherwise decarbonize using existing technology. Its recommendations are premised upon these benefits, and include steps like affirming the existing science-based conclusions of state agencies as to the need for and value of CCS, coordinating a permitting process which is otherwise fractured across many state and local agencies, and issuing policy guidance and regulatory updates clarifying the eligibility of CCS within state climate policies.

Core among these recommendations are revisions to California’s Mandatory GHG Reporting and Cap-and-Trade Program Regulations, which currently preclude using CCS to reduce a source’s covered emissions, providing no incentive for large emitters to adopt the technology and reduce their emissions.  The authors recommend incorporating the existing Low Carbon Fuel Standard CCS Protocol into the Cap-and-Trade Program, which already includes numerous safeguards to ensure the integrity of reductions. Likewise, the authors recommend that the state explicitly clarify that CCS-controlled natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants will qualify to meet California’s 2045 100 percent “zero-carbon” electricity target, to provide the long-term investment clarity needed for sources to invest in CCS in the near term.