On March 5, 2021, The Department of Energy (DoE) announced a $24 million investment in carbon capture technologies. With the United States being one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, the Biden administration is backing its commitment to combating climate change. This proposal, combined with increased attention for innovation in the sector vertical from Elon Musk’s $100 million challenge, much-needed capital will be pouring into companies working fast to find a cheap, effective solution to carbon emissions collection.
Carbon capture systems (CCS) come in two forms: direct-air capture (DAC) and point-source capture. DAC systems pull CO2 straight from the air, whereas point-source systems remove CO2 straight from industrial emissions. From here, the captured CO2 can either be sequestered into the ground or be further separated to create carbon-to-value products. These technologies, however, are incredibly expensive. In a January 2021 article by the World Resources Institute, the cost of DAC is reported to be between $250-600/ton CO2. For this to be cost-competitive, the price of capturing carbon must be equivalent to the cost of emitting carbon, which is generally between $50-100/ton CO2.
Why does this matter:
- CCS is not a new technology, but it in its current form has been receiving a lot of attention as the atmospheric carbon concentrations have reached 400 ppm. Instead of just trying to find ways to decrease carbon emissions, it provides a way to utilize Earth’s enemy for positive change
- Government commitment to climate change by providing real dollars for a fledgling technology goes a long way. Outside of existing grant programs like SBIR, STTR, baseline DoE and ARPA-E grants, an investment program specifically directed towards necessary technologies with variable learning curves will not only stimulate more research and growth in the vertical but also builds trust in the government to explore more niche, revolutionary technologies that do not have track records.
CCS gives birth to a whole new array of downstream economies. Because carbon is a part of almost everything society uses (fuels, plastics, chemicals, steel, etc.), low-cost carbon capture will be essential to creating a circular economy. In a Carbon180 report, the global carbon-to-value market is estimated to be around $6 trillion. If emerging innovation can replace incumbent materials and production methods, industries can be redefined to achieve carbon neutrality while creating pathways for an entirely renewable future.
About The Author
Impact Investment Fellow
Matt is an Impact Investment Fellow with Vectors Angels as a part of the organization’s sustainability team. While most disciplined in power generation and energy storage, Matt takes on a wide array of technologies in the sector.
Leveraging these skills, Matt works with early-stage startups on fundraising and go-to-market strategies, understanding their market, and competitor due diligence.
Matt holds a BS in Finance and Economics from Boston College and an MEng from Boston University in Materials Science & Engineering. Matt’s graduate research and passion focused on the impact fundraising mechanisms and financial institutions have on the success of startups in the renewable energy and cleantech industries. His current interests involve developing new financial instruments to fund demo and pilot “tough tech” projects and closing the commercialization gap.