Powering Our Future: Taking A Closer Look at Decarbonization

In the face of escalating climate change concerns, the words “decarbonization” and “net zero” are everywhere. But what do these terms mean, how do they work, and how do they fit together? Let’s take a look.

What is Decarbonization?

Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, causing the planet to warm. The most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Decarbonization refers to the reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from various sources, such as industries, transportation, and energy production.

How Does Decarbonization Relate to “net zero”?

The term “net zero” refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed.

Today, most countries have set the goal of reaching net zero by 2050. By this time, the power demand is expected to be more than double what it is today, making decarbonization essential to reaching this urgent climate goal.

There are two aspects to decarbonization, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and scaling the ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere with innovative solutions, including:

  • Increased Hydrogen Production: Hydrogen is an abundant element that can be a clean and versatile energy carrier when produced using low-carbon or renewable methods.
  • Integration of SMRs (small modular reactors): SMRs are a promising non-emitting form of energy that have a smaller footprint, siting flexibility and greater efficiency than traditional large reactors.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): CCS technology captures carbon dioxide emissions from industries and power plants and prevents them from entering the atmosphere. The captured CO2 is then stored underground, reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. CCS plays a crucial role in decarbonization by allowing industries that are difficult to decarbonize directly, (such as cement and steel production), to continue operating while significantly reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Better Energy Storage: Advancing energy storage solutions will enable efficient storage and use of renewable energy, ensuring a stable power supply even when renewable sources fluctuate.
  • Smart Grids: Upgrading infrastructure to smart grid systems optimizes energy distribution, by more effectively integrating renewable sources, managing demand, and minimizing energy wastage. Smart grids enhance the efficiency and reliability of energy networks.
  • Carbon Removal Technologies: Besides carbon capture, direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) are emerging technologies that actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere, supporting the goal of achieving net-zero emissions.

The Heart of Alberta’s Decarbonized Future

The Genesee Repowering project is innovating thermal generation to drastically reduce emissions and increase efficiency by repowering Genesee to utilize 100% natural gas and move off-coal. Capital Power also anticipates advancing plans for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at this facility.

The Genesee CCS project will capture carbon dioxide from natural gas-fired power plants and store it underground, making it the world’s first carbon-negative power generation facility. The project and its success will revolutionize the power industry and help us to decarbonize our energy sector and achieve net-zero emissions.

Watch how Genesee is being transformed to help create a brighter energy future as part of the Humanising Energy series presented by the World Energy Council and produced for us by BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions.

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Capital Power is also a leading advocate for public policies that support decarbonization, and it is working to develop and implement policies that will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero.