A team of international researchers has found that investing in wind turbines, solar panels and energy storage is better for addressing climate change than capturing carbon from fossil fuel power stations.

The researchers calculated the energy output for fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas stations and compared the results with the energy return on wind, solar, hydropower and energy storage. The results showed that the best examples of carbon capture only compare to the worst-case scenarios for renewables.

According to the researchers, from Lancaster University, Khalifa University, Clemson University, UiT The Arctic University and the University of Florence, this is due to net energy losses from installing and operating carbon capture technology. This results in a reduced net energy output for fossil fuel power stations with carbon capture.

Lancaster University senior lecturer in energy storage and system dynamics Dr Denes Csala said: “It is more valuable, energetically, to invest the available energy resources directly into building new renewable energy and storage capacity rather than building new fossil-fuel power stations with carbon capture.

“The better net energy return of investing in renewable energy makes it more likely to meet emission targets without risking a reduction in energy availability, due to dwindling fossil fuel supplies and a climate-constrained emissions budget.

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“Given its net energy disadvantages, carbon capture and storage should be considered a niche and supplementary contributor to the energy system, rather than be seen as a critical technology option as current climate agreements view it.”

The research is a world-first to compare these technologies using net energy analysis and it is outlined in the paper ‘Comparative net energy analysis of renewable electricity and carbon capture and storage’, published by Nature Energy.”