by Felix von Geyer
“The glass is still eighty per cent empty,” Laura Cozzi declared in discussing the attempt by G7 countries in achieving their 2030 emissions reductions pledge during a webinar hosted by the International Energy Agency, Tuesday, on the back of their latest report: Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 Countries..
Cozzi’s empty glass scenario comes on the back of the highest ambition ever in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets set by G7 countries, the IEA’s Chief Energy Modeller explained.
For G7 countries to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, within individual G7 energy sectors remains critical and for Cozzi a “Double ticket of tripling the investment in low carbon generation and increased flexibility in investment decisions that would also pursue a large pattern of new jobs being created was critical
“Thirty per cent of the technology required for Net Zero Emissions (NZE) to 2035 is not yet on the market,” said Cozzi.
Indeed, the report shows that 28% of the technology required to meet NZEby 2035 is still at demonstration or prototype stage.
G7 countries have clearly led the way that economic performance can be decoupled from energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, in 2020 G7 countries accounted for nearly 40% of the global economy, 30% of global energy demand but only 25% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
The report’s recommendations were to end investment in all new unabated coal plants from 2021; the retrofitting of existing plants to co-fire biomass, low-carbon ammonia or otherwise to instal carbon capture equipment. Plants not retrofitted should be retired, the report stated.
Unabated coal plants were not the only problem and the report stressed that: “It is also critical to drive down the share of unabated natural gas-fired generation in the G7 to just a few percentage points by 2035”.
Currently unabated gas-fired generation comprises nearly 25% of today’s G7 energy mix.
Similarly, electrification of end use applications is essential particularly electric vehicles and using hydrogen to replace fossil fuels. A large-scale roll-out of of heat pumps for buildings is also necessary.
Advocates of sectoral approaches to mitigate the world’s greenhouse gas emissions should note the report’s call for electricity sector emissions to be 170 grams/KWh by 2025 with fully 60% of electricity to come from low emissions sources. Hydrogen and ammonia could produce 200 Terawatt Hours (TWh).
Asked by neworator.com whether sectoral approaches through placing a global cap on the carbon content versus the energy content of fuel and energy as it came to market could create the requisite market-push and technology-pull, the IEA panel responded that regional sectoral approaches could enable regions to realize the availability of regional solutions.
Overall, a tripling of investment in the electricity sector by G7 countries is required during the next decade, steadying to double of current investment over the following two decades with 60% of that investment to pour into renewable energies which the IEA forecasts could create 2.6 million jobs, including in the development of energy grids. The fossil fuel powergen sector would likely lose 300,000 jobs.
The bulk of emissions reductions must come from new technologies says the report. Fifty-five per cent of required technologies remain in early adoption phase or require mass scale-up. Onshore wind and more energy efficient crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are currently being scaled-up while coal with carbon capture, large-scale heat pumps, still need to be pushed and new battery storage technologies is in early adoption phase.
Mature technologies like hydropower and light-water nuclear reactors would contribute only about 15% of reductions. The remaining nearly 30% of G7 electricity sector emissions reductions would be delivered by technologies still in the demonstration or prototype phase today. These include floating offshore wind, carbon capture technologies for natural gas or biomass. Hydrogen and ammonia also have a strong role to play.
Strong international co-operation is an essential pre-requisite to prevent the delay of initial deployment of key technologies in both advanced and emerging market economies, according to the IEA’s report.
Here the IEA recommended for G7 countries to foster international cooperation by bringing technologies to market more quickly, through coordinating multiple demonstration projects in parallel.
Where the G7 has previously led on development for nuclear power, solar PV, onshore wind and fixed-bottom offshore wind, so G7 countries could again promote adoption of floating offshore wind and hydrogen and ammonia use in power plants in order to unlock emissions reductions technologies.
Doubling energy investment to $5 trillion by 2030 is essential to any NZE path, according to the IEA, and extends beyond the electricity sector.
After the electricity sector, industry, particularly iron, steel and cement form the second largest emitting sector. Here G7 countries could promote fuel transformation, especially through hydrogen and biofuels production and reach net zero by the mid-2030s through deployment of bioenergy carbon-capture and storage (BECCS) in biofuels production and direct air capture and storage (DACS). Combined BECCS and DACS could account for almost 2 gigatonnes (Gts) of emissions reductions by 2050.
A further decoupling of economic productivity from energy consumption and GHG emisisons is expected to ensue. The report forecast total energy supply in the NZE to reduce by by 8% between 2020 and 2050 while the economy grows almost 150%.
As half the technologies needed to achieve global NZE by 2050 are not yet commercially available, the hydrogen economy would need hydrogen production itself to increase 800% by 2030 to 850GW.
Similarly fossil fuels must shrink from 80% of current global energy supply to only 20% by 2050 with renewable energies accounting for two-thirds of global supply.
Key milestones recommended by the report include hydrogen production to increase to 150 GW by 2030, reaching 1600 TWh of powergen by 2050 – roughly 3% total global demand, according to the report.
Elsewhere, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) should account for 4 Gts of emissions reductions by 2035 while electric vehicle sales need to surpass internal combustion engine sales, especially in truck sales.
Renewable energy capacity to 2030 must triple 2020 levels to pass 10 000 GW by 2030, with wind and solar to produce 40% of total world electricity generation. This should be complemented by over 500 GW of nuclear power and around 80 GW of fossil-fuel power plants being equipped with carbon capture.
By 2050, wind and solar account for around 70% of total generation, and total installed capacity reaches around 23 TW.
The future importance of investing in a clean G7 electricity sector is reflected in the IEA’s G7 electricity demand forecasts. While G7 electricity demand has been constant between 8 200 TWh and 8 400 TWh over the past decade, dropping to 8 000 TWh in 2020, rapid electrification and digitalization of mobility, heating and industry in the NZE scenario will add over 7000 TWh to G7 demand by 2050.
The IEA’s 2035 Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 Members report was produced at the behest of the UK government in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, to be held in Glasgow next month under UK presidency. The UK is also G7 president this year.
“In this critical year of climate action ahead of COP26, I welcome this report, which sets out a roadmap for the G7 to meet the commitment, made earlier this year, to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power,” said COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma. “The report also highlights the huge jobs and growth opportunities that this decade could bring, from scaling-up renewables and improving energy efficiency to driving digital solutions and deploying critical technologies,” concluded Sharma in a statement.