At the current rate of progress higher energy efficiency, more renewables, and carbon capture will not be enough to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C. So to point the way, DNV-GL has condensed its Energy Transition Outlook 2019 into 10 ways technology can meet the COP21 targets. This article gives figures on how much solar and wind we really need, battery production, annual investment in grids, and energy efficiency. It further places the spotlight on heating and insulation, EV charging infrastructure, CCS, green hydrogen, the electrification of heavy industry, and rail expansion. It also draws our attention to behavioural change: land use, the circular and sharing economies, and lower consumption of high-carbon-footprint goods and services. The good news is we can afford it, says DNV-GL. How come? The full report reveals (in section 4.6 Energy Expenditures) that although annual global energy expenditure will have to increase from $4.5tn in 2017 to $5.5tn in 2050, its share of growing world GDP will almost halve from 3.6% to 1.9%. By that calculation we can Transition well below 2°C and have money to spare.
No silver bullet
Technology can deliver the COP21 1.5°C target but not at the current rate of progress. What can be done?
- We could, from this day forward, generate all our electricity from renewable sources. Sadly, if this was all we did, we would still fall short of the 2-degree goal.
- We could start using less energy, reducing energy intensity at a much higher speed than the 2.5% we forecast. But annual reductions would need to be 4.8% a year to achieve 2-degrees, which we consider unrealistic.
- We could capture carbon in enormous quantities. But even if all emissions associated with fossil-fuelled power stations were to be captured, that alone would not be enough. And, given the snail-paced development of CCS worldwide it appears to be a particularly slender straw to clutch at.
Very high carbon prices would force a faster transition, but as the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in France reminded the world in 2018, it would be a hard sell politically.
There is therefore no silver bullet. If the world is to avoid dangerous warming, policies must be developed to tackle at least three fronts simultaneously: higher energy efficiency, more renewables, and industrial-scale CCS.
Don’t forget behaviour change: land use, circular economies, consumption
The battle against climate change is not only confined to energy. Policies on land use as well as mandating and encouraging the circular and sharing economies are also critical, as will be incentivising behavioural change towards lower consumption of goods and services with a high carbon footprint.
Strengthen policies dramatically
Last year’s IPCC report highlighted that every tenth of a degree of warming matters greatly in terms of climate impact: there are dramatic differences in holding global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. The technologies to deliver the 1.5-degree target exist: if they are deployed rapidly, their costs will fall quickly, setting up a self-reinforcing effect. However, this can only succeed if enabling policies – for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement – are dramatically strengthened and enforced nationally. Figure 20 shows how a combination of measures can lead us to 1.5 or 2 degrees. As illustrated, getting emissions down is not only important, but also very urgent.
Higher energy efficiency, more renewables, industrial-scale CCS
Policies must be developed to tackle at least three fronts simultaneously: higher energy efficiency, more renewables, and industrial-scale CCS.
Technology has the power to close the emissions gap to well below 2°C. At DNV GL, we believe a combination of these 10 measures can get us there:
1] Grow solar power by more than 10 times to 5 TW and wind by 5 times to 3 TW by 2030, which would meet 50% of the global electricity use per year
2] 50-fold increase in production of batteries for the 50 million electric vehicles needed per year by 2030, plus investments in more storage and balancing solutions to accommodate the growth of solar and wind power
3] Invest more than $1.5tn annually in the expansion and reinforcement of power grids by 2030, including ultra-high voltage transmission networks and extensive demand-response solutions
4] Within the next decade the reduction in global energy intensity, the energy used per unit of output, needs to happen at a faster rate, going from our current forecast of approximately 2.5% per annum to approximately 3.5%
5] Improved and cheaper heat-pump technologies and improved insulation
6] Create new infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on a large scale
7] Rapid and wide deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage installations
8] Green hydrogen to heat buildings and industry, fuel transport and make use of excess renewable energy in the power grid
9] For the heavy industry sector: increased electrification of manufacturing processes, including electrical heating. Onsite renewable sources combined with storage solutions
10] Massive rail expansion both for city commuting and long-distance passenger and cargo transport
“10 ways technology can meet the COP21 targets” by DNV-GL. The report, in sections or in full, can be downloaded for free.
This article is published with permission.