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The objectives of the FlexEVAL study were to investigate the need for flexibility and the value of flexible CCS power plants to the UK electricity system.
Most informed studies indicate that, to reduce future CO2 emissions sufficiently, the share of fossil fuels to generate electricity must reduce markedly in the future if the worst effects of global warming are to be avoided. Nonetheless, the use of coal and gas is likely to remain significant to mid-century at least, even under a low-carbon energy scenario. To achieve an emissions trajectory consistent with limiting the global average atmospheric temperature increase to 2°C or less by 2100, major deployment of CCS will be essential in many countries (to address emissions from industry as well as power generation).
While the cost of CCS has been the focus of many studies, its value – the focus of this study – has not been explored nearly as often. Investigating the value of a technology to the electricity system takes in much more than simply its cost; it includes the contribution of a technology to system adequacy (cf. total installed generating capacity), system reliability (cf. reserve capacity) and system operability (cf. inertia or spinning reserve).
The study demonstrated that flexible CCS power plants can provide additional value to the electricity system of the future. Flexible CCS power plants complement intermittent renewable capacity and provide system-wide benefits critical to reducing the cost of the electricity system.
The cost-optimal low-carbon electricity system of the future is likely to contain substantial intermittent renewable capacity. Flexible CCS technologies provide additional value in being able to accommodate higher levels of intermittent renewable capacity, reducing total system costs further through increased electricity dispatch from intermittent renewables with low operational cost, while generating low-carbon electricity.
Its ability to provide low-carbon electricity consistently identifies CCS as an essential component for a global, low-carbon energy system to be achieved at least cost. That flexible CCS can provide firm, dispatchable, low-carbon electricity is central to this quality. While this may be valid from a global, system-wide perspective, the current high capital and operating costs of CCS inhibit its progress at the local level. Thus, it is important to look beyond cost and the traditional LCOE metric to quantify the value afforded to the electricity system by the availability of the firm, flexible low-carbon electricity that CCS can deliver. Demonstrating the value or benefit to the electricity system is a necessary measure to offset concerns over cost. While the cost of flexible CCS will continue to decrease, its value will remain.