Iran's Renewable Future?
The Middle East is changing.
Major events such as the Arab Spring, the U.S. draw down of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the overthrow of several key figures have caused massive cultural and political shifts in the region over the past few years.
One country trying to change its image on the world stage to varying degrees of success is Iran. Under the presidency of ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) relations with the West were constantly under serious strain. His frequently aggressive anti-Western rhetoric made relations between the U.S. and Iran particularly tumultuous. With the election of Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the tensions between the U.S. and Iran softened a bit, as Rouhani went on a “charm offensive,” reaching out to the understandably skeptical Western world.
Rouhani even spoke to President Barack Obama over the phone regarding Iran’s nuclear program—the first time two heads-of-state from their respective countries have spoken in 30 years.
Despite these efforts and the U.S. and Iran’s potential cooperation regarding the situation in Iraq and Syria, relations remain tense between the two.
Before looking Iran’s renewable energy potential, it’s important to assess Iran’s current energy situation as a whole.
A Finite Dependence on Oil and Gas
Globally, Iran is an energy superpower, though most of its assets lie in oil and natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran holds the world’s fourth largest proven oil reserves and the second largest natural gas reserves. More than half of the country’s oil reserves lie in five massive fields and the country remains the world’s second largest OPEC producer annually despite its production falling drastically in 2012—down nearly 700 thousand barrels per day from 2011. Sanctions on the Iranian oil industry have done damage, accounting for much of its drop in production. The EIA reports the only countries with companies still operating in the energy sector in Iran are Russia and China.
In the way of renewable energy projects, Iran is still very much in the planning stages. Only 5 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from hydroelectric or other renewable sources. Instead of green initiatives, Iran has turned to nuclear energy to solve the problem of finite gas and oil reserves, drawing the ire of the Western world once again.
The refusal to give up their pursuit of nuclear energy has resulted in the aforementioned sanctions that are still in place today, though there has been movement on both sides—in the West and in Iran—to work toward a future in which they’re no longer necessary. Unfortunately, it’s not going particularly well.
A Pivot Toward a Possible Solution
Jen Alic writing for the Christian Science Monitor believes that the answer to the nuclear issue lies in renewable energy investments within Iran. She argues that despite it seeming antagonistic in nature, Iran’s nuclear program is really about finding an alternative energy. Helping Iran shift away from nuclear and toward renewable would “gradually remove all justification and necessity for a nuclear energy program.” She also argues that Iran has made it clear they wish to pursue renewable energy, citing former president Ahmadinejad’s 500 million euro allocation for renewable energy projects, as well as the Renewable Energy Organization of Iran’s $60 million budget.
Ultimately, Alic believes that renewable energy is essential to Iran’s future and it’s a smart investment for the world, as she believes it would address many problems faced in Iran’s relations with other countries.
Taking a Step Toward Energy-from-Waste
While conducting business in Iran is still a difficult proposition, one California-based company is hoping to jump start an energy-from-waste project in Iran with a $1.175 billion investment. World Eco Energy hopes to create 650 jobs in the immediate future and to generate 2,000 down the line. By burning 1,500 tons of solid waste, the project will generate roughly 250 megawatts per day. The project is expected to start in September of this year.
However, for a company with more than $1 billion dollars to invest, very little is known about World Eco Energy. Their main energy-from-waste system involves biomass and algae, though they give no specific details on the process. According to filings with the California Secretary of State, the company is approximately one year old and is listed anonymously.
The Iranian government is hoping the investment will pay off, though, claiming local companies will match the investment. If the investing works out, it could put Iran on the path to a sustainable future without nuclear energy in at least one of its energy sectors.
However, for now, it’s unclear what the future holds for Iran and renewable energy. As previously stated, the Middle East is changing and Iran appears to want to change with it. Granted, the transition will not be a rapid one as international relations are still a major problem of Iran’s, but it there does at least look to be those in the country working toward some kind of progress.
Iran’s renewable future may be coming, and it’s time to start paying attention.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere