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Blog: Putting stakeholders at the heart of CCUS dialogue

Elisabeth Duetschke and Julius Wesche, of Fraunhofer (WP3 lead), describe the purpose and methodology of STRATEGY CCUS’s work package dedicated to stakeholder engagement.

The development of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) has been slow. As a technology, it has the potential to support the fight against climate change by decarbonising energy-intensive processes. However, some climate activists doubt that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is able to contribute to a change and see it as an (expensive) fig leaf to keep fossil industries alive.

On the other side, some actors still doubt whether such steps are necessary. Thus, beyond economic and technical challenges, negative perceptions of CCUS are prominent in the debate around the technology. In the past, projects were set on hold or even cancelled due to resistance by the local public or from failing to gain or sustain support from political actors.

The objective of our project, STRATEGY CCUS, is to develop and assess strategic plans for CCUS in several regions of Europe. Part of this assessment is also to look into issues around the acceptance of CCUS.

The term “acceptance” describes a favourable or positive response to a proposed or existing technology, innovation or policy development. However, acceptance is not only a passive concept – those who do or do not accept a technology play an important and active part in the development and diffusion of this technology. They may invest into it, for example: with larger sums or by buying shares; they may join a workforce to further develop it; they may speak up against it in their circle of colleagues, friends and family; they may write to policymakers, taking a position; they may protest against it; or, their opinion may influence their voting decision.

Therefore, in this project a full work package (WP3 Stakeholder engagement) is dedicated to studying the social acceptance of CCUS, which takes different forms. Usually there is a societal dimension describing the general societal climate towards a technology or innovation within a society. This relates to typical discussions about a topic or socially desirable opinions.

Of course, societies can also be divided in their opinions. For example, renewable energy technologies are usually perceived positively across Europe, more positively than nuclear or coal (Special Eurobaromenter, 2011). Socio-political acceptance is shaped and mirrored by opinion leaders, poll data, media and the like. Community acceptance is a concept that is most relevant for siting decisions and refers to the attitudes and behaviours exhibited by neighbours of installations or others somehow affected by an innovation or technology, who will not actually use it. In the case of CCUS, this means living or working next to an industry that may add carbon capture to its processes or next to a CO2 pipeline. Then there is a market side to acceptance, which refers to the supply and demand for a technology and is mirrored by how active people get in demanding or pushing forward a technology.

With these different forms of social acceptance, it is obvious that they involve a variety of people, who are important for its development. This includes industry with carbon-intensive processes, that is, those potentially providing the technical processes to capture, transport, store and use CO2. It involves citizens as voters and neighbours of installations. It refers to policy makers and public administration at European, national, regional and local level, who set framework conditions that allow, or hinder, the implementation of CCUS and issue relevant permissions.

It is the aim of our dedicated work package to look into all these different forms of acceptance – societal level, community, market – and to include a broad variety of actors.
Therefore, the first important step in this work task is to start by identifying relevant stakeholders. In a second step, stakeholders of different categories will be consulted via one-to-one interviews. The focus will be to learn more about stakeholder views on CCUS, their hopes and concerns. Following this, at a regional level, representatives from several groups will be invited to join regional committees to discuss CCUS. These will be coordinated by a consortium partner from their respective country.

These committees will be regularly informed about the progress of the project, will be asked to provide advice to the project team and will participate in decision making, wherever possible. Their role is to responsibly monitor regional concerns and needs, and ensure they are taken into account in the strategic planning. The perspective and opinions of the wider public will be studied in more detail by conducting surveys in a later stage of the project.

The regional perspective and local stakeholders will play an important role in the project: who they are, what they believe and how they might contribute to the implementation of CCUS in different European regions. In STRATEGY CCUS, we look at eight European regions that fit two conditions. First, there are industry agglomerations that emit CO2 at substantial scales. Second, either CO2-use cases or sequestration opportunities are locally available.

The regions that will be looked at in the project are: The Paris basin (France), Rhône Valley (France), Lusitanian Basin (Portugal), Western Macedonia (Greece), Upper Silesia (Poland), Galati (Romania), Northern Croatia (Croatia) and Ebro Basin (Spain).

These regions differ on scale. Some are very large (Paris basin) while others are quite small (Galati). Some regions intend to decarbonise heavy industry complexes (Rhône Valley) while others explore the integration of CCUS with local coal power plants (Upper Silesia and Western Macedonia). In some regions there is limited experience of CCUS (Croatia), while in other regions several pilot projects have been implemented (Paris Basin). Due to all these characteristics, we will face a challenge in some regions to find and interact with relevant stakeholders, whereas in others it will be more straightforward.

In all cases, the results of our research are expected to prove useful to CCUS deployment pathways in each of our focus regions.