The level of innovation intensity within the Energy Transition is a fascinating one, and it is one I continually place more and more a focus upon.
I think it is worth referencing here how the IEA breaks down to track clean energy progress, it is a pathway that needs innovation to be central.
The thinking within post has been inspired by the IEA report Tracking clean energies IEA report, published last year and has significantly crystallized my own views or thinking on the need to accelerate innovation as central to the Energy Transition.
The IEA track the following aspects of the energy system; power, fuel, industry, transport, buildings, and energy integration. That gives innovation focus a sound way to break down the complexity within the transformation underway.
Just reflect how difficult this energy transition actually is.
The difficulties in energy transition are immense. Not only in a wholesale, radical change to our energy fuel, generation, transmission, utilization, and consumption but in the levels of existing investment that need changing, writing off as potentially stranded assets (coal generation), or being replaced by new technologies based on renewables.
A conflicting world full of complexity and tough challenges
We are faced with so many conflicting forces, the lobbyists arguing for an extension to coal, oil, and gas in subsidies or protection for energy security reasons. All Governments have to make tough choices, political ones where one party has strong community support. It backs coal or oil to know new technologies and renewables are driving prices down below their present energy sources.
Each of our economies has become “highly” dependent on existing fuel sources, and the energy security issues are beginning to dominate discussions. There is intense Lobbying to keep investments and make them more efficient is on one side. On the other hand, backed by Scientists, Environmental fractions, and a growing public feeling are that we are feeling the effects of global warming and we need a radical overhaul of our energy systems.
Putting a clear form of context by breaking this down using the IEA method of tracking clean energies helps break the issues down to a more manageable level
- The IEA is tracking power across the global; in the activities, investments, and positions of Renewable power, Solar PV Onshore wind, Offshore wind Hydropower, Bioenergy power generation Concentrating solar power (CSP) Geothermal Ocean power Nuclear power Natural gas-fired power Coal-fired power and CCUS in power (Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage)
The “sum” of where we are today requires that power sector emissions fall an average of 4% per year to 2030, and electricity emissions intensity drops 5.6% annually.
Tracking Fuel Supply
- Emissions from oil and gas extraction, processing, and transport rose marginally in 2018 to around 5.4 GtCO2-eq – approximately 15% of the global energy sector GHG emissions. Over half of these emissions (2.7 GtCO2-eq) came from flaring and methane released during oil and gas operations. The IEA tracks specifically Methane emissions from oil and gas and Flaring emissions.
The available data suggests a significant variation between the best and the worst-performing companies on these issues, so a vital task is to ensure that best practices and operational excellence on these emissions become standard across the industry as a whole. Considerably enhanced policy ambitions and regulatory efforts, better measurement and reporting, strong industry efforts along with technological progress to improve the effectiveness of leak detection, measurement, and abatement are needed.
- The principal industries, regarded as the “prime” polluters or emitters of high levels of Co2 and other greenhouse gases, are specifically monitored. These are Chemicals Iron and steel Cement Pulp and paper Aluminium and how CCUS in industry and transformation performs.
Direct industrial CO2 emissions, including process emissions, declined 0.6% to 8.5 GtCO2 in 2018 (24% of global emissions), which is good news, but industry emissions must fall by 1.2% annually to 7.4 GtCO2 by 2030 – despite expected industrial production growth.
Greater energy efficiency, the uptake of renewable fuels, and research and deployment of low-carbon process routes, including CCS, are critical. We need to rapidly accelerate progress by providing innovation funding and adopting robust innovation practices.
- Transport covers all our sectors. Electric vehicles Rail Fuel consumption of cars and vans Trucks and buses the sue of Transport biofuels to significantly switch fuels in the Aviation & International shipping sectors.
Transportation is responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Road vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, and two- and three-wheelers – account for nearly three-quarters of transport CO2 emissions, and emissions from aviation and shipping continue to rise, highlighting the need for a greater international policy focus on these hard-to-abate subsectors. This area needs the acceleration of solutions we have available in fuel alternatives across all mobility sectors.
- It always staggers me how much off the Co2 comes from our buildings. The IEA monitor Building envelopes Heating Heat pumps Cooling Lighting Appliances and equipment and Data centres and data transmission networks.
Energy-related CO2 emissions from buildings have risen in recent years after flattening between 2013 and 2016. Direct and indirect emissions from electricity and commercial heat used in buildings rose to 10 GtCO2 in 2019, the highest level ever recorded.
Growing energy demand for heating and cooling with rising air-conditioner ownership and extreme weather events and insufficient investment in sustainable buildings. This needs a transformation in design and thinking through extensive peer pressure, as we can determine the changes we need in where we individually live and work, for example.
Tracking Energy Integration
- The ability to integrate our energy systems to combine fossil fuel and renewables has to accelerate. The whole issue of sector coupling, storage, and transmission is locked into this energy transition debate. Innovative solutions need to enable this energy integration and then transition into just renewables over the next thirty years.
- This is a really fascinating area to watch of leveraging Energy storage Hydrogen Smart grids Demand response and Direct air capture. These areas need deeper innovation funding and co-ordination from policy support to fund experimentation, piloting, and extensive scaling out, all on demanding time scales.
Keeping track of the changes needed
IEA identified 46 critical energy technologies or sectors on what we see today. Nearly all we are not on track, we have been arguably blown off track by the pandemic and the required economic stimulus required to “kick start” our economies back into “normal” life.
This needs us to transform the energy systems globally so we can have a chance still to stop this planet from warming even further and giving us improved health, economic and environmental possibilities. The effects of the present Covid-19 surely give us all a wake-up call. It is how global failure has an enormous impact, and the concern is here that we are moving from one crisis into a longer, more dangerous one.
Innovation can change the course of Energy, it needs our dedicated focus.
Unless we change the course of where we seem to be heading, we face rapid global warming that will not protect us. We have no second planet, and it is not just developing a vaccine to make us all feel safe, this is threatening human life as we have known it, pandemics included.
** the IEA report Tracking clean energies IEA report, published last year