Global CO2 emissions could be reduced 50% by 2050 without sacrificing economic development and growth by focusing on the development and promoting the adoption of 17 key advanced energy technologies. So asserts the International Energy Agency – one of, if not the most authoritative sources of information and research on world energy supply-demand, technology and market conditions – in its latest bi-ennial report, “IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2008.”
Responding to the G-8′s call for guidance on how to achieve “a clean, clever and competitive energy future,” the International Energy Agency released “IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2008″ June 6 in Tokyo in which it lays out three possible alternative courses – a business-as-usual case, a set of ACT scenarios, and a set of BLUE scenarios – projecting the path of global CO2 emissions and energy supply and demand out to 2050.
“The world faces the daunting combination of surging energy demand, rising greenhouse gas emissions and tightening resources. A global energy technology revolution is both necessary and achievable; but it will be a tough challenge”, Nobuo Tanaka, IEA’s executive director said upon announcing the report’s release in Tokyo.
Reason to Act Now – 3 Scenarios
In the ETP 2008 report the IEA emphasizes the tremendous scope and scale of the challenges, and changes required, if the current trend of rising emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gases is to be reversed.
“We need to act now. We need roadmaps that accelerate international technology development and implementation, but that leave room for flexible responses on a country level”, Mr. Tanaka said. “This implies additional funds in the order of USD100-200 billion per year in the coming decade, rising to USD 1-2 trillion in the coming decades. The IEA and its technology collaboration network are ready to support this change.”
In the 2008 ETP report’s Baseline (business-as-usual), ACT and BLUE scenarios the IEA charts alternative paths for global CO2 emissions levels. In the Baseline scenario, the IEA projects CO2 emissions rising by 130% and demand for oil 70% – five times that of Saudi Arabian production today. Power generation would account for 44% of global emissions, followed by industry, transport, fuel refining and buildings.
“ETP 2008 demonstrates the extent of the challenge to reverse these trends,” Tanaka stated. “To bring CO2 emissions back to current levels in 2050, all options are needed at a cost of up to USD 50 per tonne CO2…No single form of energy or technology can provide the full solution. Improving energy efficiency is the first step and is very attractive as it results in immediate cost savings. Significantly reducing emissions from power generation is also a key component of emissions stabilisation. But even this is not enough.”
17 Key Energy Technologies
Included as part of IEA’s 2008 ETP report are papers summarizing 17 key advanced energy technologies identified by the IEA as keys to making drastic reductions in CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2050. Here’s the list:
* CCS fossil-fuel power generation
* Nuclear power plants
* Onshore and offshore wind
* Biomass IGCC & co-combustion
* Photovoltaic systems
* Concentrating solar power
* Coal: integrated-gasification combined cycle
* Coal: ultra-supercritical
* 2nd generation biofuels
* Energy efficiency in buildings and appliances
* Heat pumps
* Solar space and water heating
* Energy efficiency in transport
* Electric and plug-in vehicles
* H2 fuel cell vehicles
* CCS industry, H2 and fuel transformation
* Industrial motor systems
Here’s the link.
The Blue End of the Spectrum
At the other end of the IEA’s forecast spectrum is the BLUE scenario, the result of which is a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Realizing such deep cuts would require drastic change in energy consumption and production and the pursuit of options that would cost up to US$500/t CO2 and require some $45 trillion – 1.1% of average global GDP – in additional investments in technology development and deployment between today and 2050. It would also entail reducing the carbon intensity of the transport sector by eight-fold, the IEA highlights.
Achieving this would require “a virtual decarbonisation of the power sector,” according to the IEA. “Given the growing demand for electricity, this would mean that on average per year 35 coal and 20 gas-fired power plants would have to be fitted with CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technology, between 2010 and 2050 at a cost of USD 1.5 billion each. Furthermore, we would have to build an additional 32 new nuclear plants each year and wind capacity would have to increase by approximately 17.500 turbines each year.”
Realizing such a goal would also mean changing people’s attitudes and willingness to compromise and sacrifice some deeply-held convictions, “such as the NIMBY-attitude (not in my backyard), the need to boost the numbers of engineering and technical graduates, and to resolve the questions on the availability of sufficient geological formations for captured CO2 or geologically stable sites for nuclear reactors or waste storage,” according to the IEA’s press statement.
Recognizing the enormous challenges should be a motivating call to co-operative action rather than a discouragement or reason for resignation as working to achieve BLUE scenarios goals would present numerous opportunities and convey numerous benefits, the IEA says.
“The energy security benefits of such a development, however, would be tremendous. Oil demand by 2050 would be 27% below the level of 2005. Yet massive investments in remaining reserves will be needed to make up for the shortfall as low-reserve provinces are exhausted.
“CO2 capture and storage, renewables, nuclear energy and energy efficiency – all must play a much more important role. New insights from this study include recognition of the important role for CO2 capture in industry, the potential for electrification of end-use sectors in combination with CO2-free electricity, the need for further development of solar electricity, and the importance of second generation biodiesel,” according to the IEA.