BERGEN, Norway (Reuters) - The World Bank seeks to play a bigger role in sustainable energy projects around the globe including experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) research, Vice President Katherine Sierra said on Thursday.
Sierra, who is the head of sustainable development at the Washington-based lender funded by countries around the world, said developing states it serves were increasingly looking for low-carbon solutions for their energy problems.
“Clients are first and foremost interested in getting the energy they need to grow in an affordable way ... (but) they are also increasingly aware of the need for sustainable energy,” Sierra told Reuters on the sidelines of a carbon conference.
She said wind technology was “penetrating” the energy mix in developing markets and solar energy was picking up despite high costs compared to fossil fuel-based electricity generation which creates the heat-trapping gasses blamed for global warming.
Sierra said still-experimental CCS technology, which siphons carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plant or industrial exhausts and buries it below ground, may be an option for some developing countries which rely heavily on dirtier coal-based power.
CCS is struggling to gain private backers. Governments of rich countries have been paying for most of the initial projects aimed at proving the technology and bringing down costs, leaving room for potential financing by international lenders.
Sierra said the World Bank has traditionally not funded “pre-commercialized technology” such as CCS but rather focused on transferring proven green technology to developing states.
But she said the bank could help fund some CCS projects or studies, including geological surveys, as well as provide clients with know-how on creating renewable energy policies.
“We are having discussions with a few countries to learn what they are doing (with CCS). If there is a request from countries for us to help pull together a financing package we could certainly be interested in discussing it,” she said.
How quickly CCS comes to developing markets like China, which relies heavily on coal, could hinge on whether this year’s global climate talks in Copenhagen include carbon capture in schemes for sharing green technology with poorer countries.
“Ultimately, we would like to see ambitious targets set by developed countries which translate into a price of carbon which motivates needed changes,” she said of the Copenhagen talks.
“Another hope is that there is some type of agreement in terms of technology transfer and a financing mechanism that will fill the gap between what we have now ... and what we will eventually have in place when we have a robust carbon market.”
Asked what price was needed to bolster the carbon market, Sierra referred to analyst reports of carbon at 40-50 euros ($55-$69) per metric ton, adding “We will not get there anytime soon.”