Coal Power Impacts, Technology, and Policy: Connecting the Dots
Posted: 5 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 2011
The demand for electricity — closely linked to human, social, and economic development — is expected to rise significantly in the coming decades, especially in developing countries. Coal power currently is, and is expected to remain, an important part of the global electric power mix with much of the future growth again in developing countries. At the same time, coal-based power generation results in multiple, significant externalities with human health and potential climate change impacts being particularly important. This has spurred much effort over the decades to better determine the range and value of the impacts. Although uncertainties still remain in many aspects, it has become quite clear that the existing health and potential climate impacts from coal-power use are considerable. More stringent regulations are already being enforced and planned in developed countries, and developing countries are beginning to follow suit. Improved coal-based power generation technologies (deployed often as a result of regulations) can play an important role in mitigating these impacts, but their further development and deployment is complicated by a number of interrelated factors: the urgency of the climate imperative, the lack of coherent policies, the scale and complexity of the transition to cleaner-coal power, and the level of technological effort being devoted to (or available for) such a transition. Looking ahead, even as the wait for more stringent climate policies continues, there is a need to catalyze the innovation cycle through research and development (R&D) efforts while facilitating uptake and appropriate international cooperation to ensure rapid technology adoption across the globe.
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