Carbon capture vs. district energy

One of the anticipated benefits of carbon capture and storage is its ability to add value to carbon dioxide by supporting processes such as enhanced oil recovery. However, in jurisdictions where value cannot be added, capturing and storing carbon dioxide will become an economic burden. This may well be the case in Nova Scotia, which relies on coal and petroleum coke for over 70 percent of its electrical generation, and has limited opportunities to add value to its carbon dioxide emissions.

Alternatives to CCS are clearly needed if carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced. Canada’s reliance on fossil energy for both electrical generation and space heating offers such an opportunity. The “waste” heat from thermal plants generating electricity can be captured and used in district energy systems to supply heat to buildings within a community. District energy systems eliminate the need for individual boilers in buildings and, more importantly, the cogenerated heat replaces that previously supplied by fossil energy.

A community requires less energy to meet its end-use energy needs when using cogeneration and district energy. This may not add value to carbon dioxide, but it can result in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and improve energy security.

Submitted to Globe and Mail 11 March 2008. Unpublished.