Introducing the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE
By Paul Bunje on September 29, 2015
More than a decade ago, a group of researchers published a landmark study showing the correlation between human development and energy consumption. The conclusion? Industrialized countries and those that have been growing quickly in recent decades have all benefitted from affordable, reliable energy—primarily in the form of fossil fuels. For these countries, access to energy has enabled unprecedented growth, transformation in production and mobility, and countless improvements in everyday life. But burning fossil fuels to achieve this growth has also been the biggest contributor to the serious global problem of climate change.
When we burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. And while it’s true that CO2, at reasonable levels, is a normal and healthy part of the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s no longer at reasonable levels. Emissions are an exponentially growing, global problem—a problem that won’t be solved by any single technology. We need every solution we can find, including not just continued incremental improvements, but radical new breakthroughs.
That’s why we are launching the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.
For decades, governments and the private sector have examined ways to capture CO2 and store it underground. These investments in research and development have led to significant improvements in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies, with several carbon capture solutions already being deployed today.
But what if instead of treating CO2 as waste, we turned that CO2 into something we can use?
Researchers and innovators around the globe are looking at potential solutions that take CO2 emissions and turn them into valuable products—products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines. And that’s only the beginning.
In the coming months, XPRIZE will be recruiting teams from around the globe to compete for the Carbon XPRIZE. We’re looking for new, groundbreaking, transformational approaches to converting CO2 emissions into valuable products. And in order to demonstrate the widest possible applicability of potential solutions, the competition will have two tracks: one focused on testing technologies at a coal power plant, and one focused on testing technologies at a natural gas power plant.
The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into the highest value products. To be competitive, teams will have to make the business case for their approach as well as minimize their use of energy, water, land, and other inputs that have consequences for the environment.
Some people may believe that any solutions we find will be too late to make a difference, but that attitude runs counter to the spirit of innovation and optimism that has driven human and economic development for centuries. With the right amount of passion, focus, and investment, we can and we will find the portfolio of solutions necessary to address climate change.
Will you help us reimagine CO2?
Paul Bunje is Principal and Senior Scientist, Energy & Environment at XPRIZE.