Author: KAPSARC
August 2020

Experts largely agree that the challenge of achieving climate goals, such as those set forth in the Paris Agreement, will be nearly impossible to achieve without pursuing all options to manage GHG emissions. The circular carbon economy builds on the principles of circular economy and applies them to managing carbon emissions: to reduce the carbon that must be managed in the first place, to reuse carbon as an input to create feedstocks and fuels, to recycle carbon through the natural carbon cycle with bioenergy, and, unique to circular carbon economy, to remove excess carbon and store it.

The circular carbon economy (CCE) is an integrated and inclusive approach to transitioning toward more comprehensive, resilient, sustainable, and climate-friendly energy systems that support and enable sustainable development. CCE enables countries to take advantage of all technologies, forms of energy, and mitigation opportunities according to resource availability, economics, and national circumstances.


Author: International Energy Agency
August 2020

The IEA finds that energy efficiency measures alone are projected to contribute 40% of the carbon reductions needed to be in line with the Paris Agreement. The wide range of solutions available provides opportunities for savings in every country’s context. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, energy efficiency is shown to generate multiple benefits across society, the economy, and the environment, including new jobs, improved energy access, improved public health, and more.

Despite a slowing in global efficiency progress in recent years, decisive, forward-thinking action can help to capture these benefits and create a more resilient, efficient energy system and economy for decades to come. Governments are in the driver’s seat in accelerating this transition, as the primary barrier to progress is not technology, but rather policy design and ambition.


Author: International Renewable Energy Agency
August 2020

IRENA concludes that renewables plus energy efficiency can provide a pathway capable of achieving over 90% of the energy-related carbon emission reductions needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Renewable technologies are currently leading the market for new power generation capacity. Solar PV and wind are increasingly the lowest-cost electricity generating options in many markets. The variability of renewable energy generation can be addressed through utility-scale battery solutions, heat pumps and smart grids.

IRENA envisions that 80% of the investment in the energy system through 2050 will be in “renewables, energy efficiency, end-use electrification and power grids and flexibility.” IRENA sees ambitious targets as key to driving markets and innovation, complemented by support measures like “pricing and competitive procurement, capital grants, tax exemptions and investment subsidies.”


Author: Nuclear Energy Agency
August 2020

Today, with 400 GW of installed capacity and about 10% of the world’s electricity mix, nuclear is the first source of low carbon electricity in advanced countries and the second in the world after hydropower. NEA states that by 2040, nuclear capacity is expected to increase by 35% from today’s levels. This translates to a doubling of the current annual rate of capacity additions. Reaching this deployment of nuclear power would require the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants, new nuclear builds of large Gen-III reactors, and emerging technologies such as SMRs.

By 2050, the NEA states that nuclear electricity generation can avoid over 2 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 per year. In addition, nuclear energy offers unique opportunities to deliver valuable non-electric applications, ranging from district and industrial heat applications, desalination, and large scale hydrogen production that can play a significant role in the circular carbon economy.


Author: International Energy Agency
August 2020

The IEA finds that new technologies that convert CO2 into fuels, chemicals and building materials can play an important role in a circular carbon economy and expand the current market of 230 million tonnes of CO2 used per year. Synthetic hydrocarbon fuels could be particularly valuable in the aviation sector, where there are few low-carbon alternatives available. However, their production is energy-intensive and costly – current production costs are between US$ 200 and US$ 600 per barrel. Using CO2 in building materials can be less energy intensive and provide a form of long-term CO2 storage. Some of these technologies enjoy a cost and product performance advantage over conventional products.

Verifying emission reductions will be central to acceptance of CO2 use. Determining the net-emissions outcome of CO2 use can be complex and depends on: potential market size for CO2-based product, source of CO2, amount and type of energy used, whether CO2 is re-emitted and the carbon footprint of the alternative (e.g. fossil fuels) that the CO2-based product is displacing. Continued innovation will be critical to reduce costs and enable CO2 use to contribute to future net-zero emission energy systems.


Author: International Renewable Energy Agency
August 2020

According to IRENA, in 2017, bioenergy represented 70% of the global renewable energy supply and 10% of the total primary energy supply. Modern bioenergy could supply 23% of primary energy in 2050 under the climate-friendly transforming energy scenario. Bioenergy can be used in various ways within the circular carbon economy, including as a fuel and as a feedstock that can replace fossil fuels in end-use sectors. Bioenergy can also be used to generate electricity and can contribute to balancing an electricity grid with a significant share of variable renewables. Bioenergy in combination with CCS offers a prospect of negative emissions.

When properly managed, biomass can lower CO2 levels by replacing fossil fuels. If bioenergy is used with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), it can result in negative emissions. IRENA concludes that bioenergy can avoid about 2.6 GtCO2 per year by 2050. Bioenergy is already part of the agreed G20 plan of action for renewable energy. The report provides recommendations for next steps.


Author: Global CCS Institute
August 2020

The GCCSI reports that 19 commercial CCS facilities are currently operating, three are under construction, and 36 are in development. Each of these facilities will store between hundreds of thousands and millions of tonnes of CO2 per year. The GCCSI estimates that, to date, 260 mega tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) have been stored permanently in geological formations. The GCCSI points to continued improvements in CCS technology. These are exemplified by a halving in capture costs for power stations over the past decade, with the next generation of technologies promising even lower costs.

According to the GCCSI, “the lowest-cost opportunities for CCS can deliver multi-million tonne CO2 abatement at a single facility, at a cost of less than US$ 20 per tonne.” The GCCSI points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates of a cumulative geologic storage potential of over 1,200 GtCO2 this century.


Author: International Energy Agency
August 2020

The IEA remarks that currently 75 Mt of pure hydrogen are produced globally. However, this production emits more than 800 Mt CO2. Hydrogen is a highly versatile fuel that can help decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors where other low carbon alternatives are not an option (such as transport, industrial applications or buildings) while serving to store energy from renewable generation and assist in balancing its variability. Hydrogen has a significant potential for reducing carbon emissions if produced from low carbon technologies, such as electrolysis powered by renewable electricity or fossil fuels coupled with carbon capture and use/storage. Hydrogen produced via electrolysis can be a zero-carbon fuel if renewable electricity is used, whereas fossil-derived hydrogen can reach carbon footprints as low as 1–2 kg CO2 /kg H2, if 90% of the carbon is captured.

The adoption of robust hydrogen strategies can help to seize near term opportunities (such as scale up in ports, use of existing infrastructure, deployments in vehicle fleets and corridors or the launch of international shipping routes for hydrogen) to facilitate the large scale deployment of hydrogen technologies, which will deliver cost reductions and increase competitiveness.


Author: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
August 2020

The OECD report focuses on enabling policies to support the Circular Carbon Economy approach, as part of a rapid transition towards net-zero GHG emissions. Drawing on OECD’s interdisciplinary expertise, the report identifies enabling policies common across the 4Rs of the CCE, and then focuses on two important CCE enablers: overcoming barriers to financing for CCUS, and accelerating innovation.

Financing CCUS can be challenging, in part because projects are capital-intensive with high perceived risks, and revenues are policy-dependent. In addition to incentives to support revenues, governments can play several roles to help reduce financing costs, including through construction guarantees and public-private partnerships. Accelerated innovation will be essential for the transition to net-zero emissions. However, even before COVID-19, there were signs of a slow-down in low-carbon innovation. Governments can play several roles to both “push” and “pull” new technological solutions through the innovation chain, including to improve cost effectiveness of the “remove” component of CCE.