Dr. Jennifer Wilcox
Biography for Jennifer Wilcox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management
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Remarks of Acting Assistant Secretary for FECM Dr. Jennifer Wilcox as prepared at Global CCS Institute on October 12, 2021

 

Good morning. 

I want to thank the GCCSI for inviting me to take part in this panel.  I also want to thank my fellow panelists for the contributions they’ll bring to the discussions this morning.  And thanks to everyone for joining us today.

As I noted when I spoke to the Institute in May, we have little time left to avoid some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

That urgency was underscored in August when the IPCC released its sixth assessment report, which warned that absent deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, average global temperatures will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

The extreme weather we’ve been seeing this year here in North America and in Europe – which just had the warmest summer on record – is only the most recent example showing the scale of this problem.

Clearly, we have a shrinking window of opportunity to limit the harm done to our most vulnerable climate populations.

And carbon capture and reliable storage – along with carbon dioxide removal (or CDR) technologies – will play a critical role in our response to this crisis.

The good news is that we’re seeing some important movement on these technologies around the world.   For example:

  • We’re seeing groundbreaking efforts to develop and deploy CCUS in Asia through the new Asia CCUS Network there. 
  • And the world’s largest direct air capture and storage plant just began operations in Iceland.

We’re also seeing progress here in the U.S. – and that’s especially true when it comes to the Department of Energy’s commitment to deploying these technologies.

So, I’d like to focus for a moment on what we’re doing to advance CCS and CDR.

For the last 20 years or so, we’ve been focused on carbon capture technology investments in the power sector, particularly coal-fired power plants.

And in the past five years, we’ve invested $1.2 billion to develop CCUS technologies. 

DOE’s budget request for next year is asking for a 60% increase in federal investment in research and development for carbon capture, storage, conversion, and removal – up to $368 million in 2022.

Going forward, we want to expand our efforts to capturing carbon emissions from committed infrastructure expected to persist through mid-century, like natural gas-fired power plants – and harder to decarbonize industrial sectors, hydrogen, cement and steel production.

Earlier this year, DOE made available $75 million for R&D and front-end engineering design studies for carbon capture specifically to  the natural gas power  and industrial sectors.

We’re also focused on improving carbon storage and operational efficiency – as well as our understanding of overall cost and de-risking strategies to reduce these costs. These are all critical to enabling and supporting a CCS industry that is safe, economically viable and environmentally responsible.

We’re leveraging work we have been doing on CCS to help move the ball on direct air capture.

Since January, the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management has invested $33M into the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of direct air capture technologies.

FECM announced $15 million in funding opportunities to advance DAC technologies in January.  In June, six projects were awarded $12 million to help create tools that will increase the amount of CO2 captured by DAC, decrease the cost of materials, and improve the energy efficiency of carbon removal operations.

And in August, we selected four additional projects to study new structured material systems and component designs for DAC technology.

We’re excited about our work to advance these CCS and CDR technologies.  But, at the end of the day, there are still a lot of moving pieces involved in deploying CCUS and carbon removal at scale. 

My message to you today is that we have a unique opportunity – and a compelling responsibility – to help tackle the climate crisis and advance a net zero, clean energy economy.

But getting there requires collaboration across government, industry, and academia – and across international borders.

And we at the Department of Energy welcome the opportunity to work with GCCSI and our partners around the world to develop and deploy technology solutions like CCS and CDR to meet that challenge and ensure that the Earth is a livable home, not just for us but for future generations.

So, again, thank you for the opportunity to say a few words this morning – and I look forward to our discussion today.