This article was contributed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action:
Innovative technologies using carbon dioxide as a feedstock for industrial and consumer products can play a role in achieving Europe’s ambitious climate change objectives. The Horizon Prize for CO2 reuse, to be launched next year by the European Commission, aims to further support and accelerate emissions-saving innovation in carbon capture and utilisation.
The European Union is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and by at least 40% domestically by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. It has also adopted a robust set of policies to reach these targets, for instance by promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies such as the capture and geological storage of carbon dioxide (CCS). A promising area for further emissions reductions is carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), which enables the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a feedstock for products such as chemicals, building materials and substitute fuels.
In addition to cutting emissions, CCU technologies can bring multiple economic benefits. They can support the EU's industrial revival and the development of a circular economy. They can contribute to our energy security, to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and to the deployment of wind and solar electricity by providing energy storage. Moreover, innovation in CCU will also support the further development of carbon capture and storage, as it helps advance capture technologies and create demand for the CO2 captured. Mutual benefits could be drawn by developing hubs and clusters for CO2 capture, transport, storage and utilisation around sites with emissions-intensive industries.
Many possible pathways for CO2 utilisation are under consideration, but most of these breakthrough technologies are still at the research and development stage and face many technical, economic and market barriers. Determining their future potential is challenging due to the complexity of the chemical reactions involved, a lack of comparable information about energy and material consumption, and uncertainty over environmental impacts and costs. To provide answers to some of these unknowns, the European Union and its Member States are supporting research to contribute to advancing CCU technologies through the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and national research programmes.
In order to further support and accelerate innovation in carbon capture and utilisation, the European Commission will launch a Horizon Prize for CO2 reuse in the third quarter of 2016. The prize, worth EUR 1.5 million, will be awarded in late 2019 to the most innovative product reusing CO2. The winning product should demonstrate a significant reduction in net CO2 emissions while overcoming key technical, commercial and financial barriers.
By putting the spotlight on emissions reduction, the prize aims to support the development of CO2 utilisation technologies that have the potential to make a genuine contribution to the European Union’s emission reduction targets. The prize also aims to mobilise private investment in research and innovation, create new partnerships and boost incentives for researchers and innovators to enhance emissions abatement efforts.
The Horizon Prize for CO2 Reuse is part of the European Commission's series of 'challenge' or 'inducement' prizes, which offer a cash reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. Over the recent years, challenge prizes have become a reliable and tested way to support and accelerate change in many areas. They have become an important driver for innovation in the public, private and philanthropic sectors worldwide, providing a different approach to the more traditional grant-based research support. The race towards the best solution encourages innovators to take risks and forge new partnerships, and the prize money is a booster to industry as a whole to deliver on the objectives of the prize without prescribing how these will be achieved.
As policy tools, these prizes are particularly adapted to circumstances where a number of competing technologies can deliver similar outcomes and where there is a lack of transparency about the real potential of different approaches to achieve significant, commercially-viable and scalable results. This also applies to CCU technologies. Through the Horizon Prize for CO2 reuse, the European Commission aims to further stimulate innovation across the relevant industries and contribute to the development of new sustainable products and technologies in line with EU policy objectives in the fields of energy, climate change and industrial innovation.
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