29 Jul 2019, 13:39
Freja Eriksen

Power-to-x requires regulation to stay sustainable – Öko-Institut

Clean Energy Wire

The production of so-called power-to-x fuels must be regulated in order for the process to stay as sustainable and climate-friendly as it is made out to be, the German Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) writes. Most importantly, the energy used to produce the fuels must come from additional renewable power. If not, power-to-x could have a worse CO2 balance than fossil fuels, depending on the current power mix. The origin of the CO2 that is added in the production process is also decisive. If CO2 is collected from industrial processes, emission reduction efforts may slow down in this sector. This would also put a price on carbon which could “counteract emissions trading”, says Öko-Institut expert Peter Karsten. Instead, CO2 should be taken from the air or processes using sustainable biomass. When water is used to produce power-to-x, it should also be taken into account whether there is a water shortage in the production area. "We should not make the same mistakes with power-to-x as with biofuels,” says Karsten. “Only if it is ensured from the outset that power-to-x fuels really reduce greenhouse gases should they be promoted. This also ensures that industry knows which concepts to invest in over the long term."

Using renewable electricity to produce hydrogen, CO₂-neutral methane or other fossil fuel substitutes could solve some of the Energiewende’s toughest challenges. Making synthetic gas or liquid with wind and solar power could provide carbon-neutral fuel for heating and transport and pave the way for large-scale seasonal energy storage. A lot of energy is lost during the conversion, however, making the technology comparatively expensive.

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