Continued fossil fuel development puts existing assets at risk of exceeding the capacity compatible with limiting global warming below 2°C. However, it has been argued that plant conversions and new abatement technologies may allow for a smoother transition. We quantify the impact of future technology availability on the need for fossil fuel power plants to be stranded, i.e. decommissioned or underused. Even with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and bioenergy widely deployed in the future, a total of 267 PWh electricity generation (ten times global electricity production in 2018) may still be stranded. Coal-to-gas conversions could prevent 10–30 PWh of stranded generation. CCS retrofits, combined with biomass co-firing, could prevent 33–68 PWh. In contrast, lack of deployment of CCS or bioenergy could increase stranding by 69 or 45 percent respectively. Stranding risks remain under optimistic technology assumptions and even more so if CCS and bioenergy are not deployed at scale.
Lu, Y., Cohen, F., Smith, S.M. & Pfeiffer, A. (2022). 'Plant conversions and abatement technologies cannot prevent stranding of power plant assets in 2°C scenarios'. Nature Communications, 13, 806.