This week is the first part of a series that I will be doing looking into net zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.
There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was excellent, so over the next couple of weeks I will pick out my personal highlights from the report.
Net Zero Carbon – Energy Solutions
There is no pathway to net zero carbon by 2050 that does not involve significant decarbonisation of the energy sector.
The report’s energy section opens with an ominous statistic on performance in Europe:
“In 2017, fossil fuels still accounted for 73% of Europe’s energy consumption, with renewables at just 14% (despite their rapid recent growth), followed by nuclear at 13%.”
This shows just how much work there is to be done to transform the energy sector.
The first energy technology that was highlighted was giga-scale manufacturing capacities of new generation solar modules. This involves building gigafactories based on perovskite and III-V multi-junction high efficiency cells by 2030.
In layman’s terms, the efficiency of crystalline silicon cells is reaching its technical limits. There is also the problem that in the last 15 years, China has produced most of the world’s solar PV. So this would present an opportunity for bringing new jobs to Europe.
This was ranked as a very powerful solution, as it is estimated that by 2030 37.9 MtCO₂e could be avoided and by 2050 253.2 MtCO₂e could be avoided.
The next solution was another solar power innovation, this involves generating 30% more electricity per m2 with bifacial solar panels. This would help to solve a pressing problem, in that current PV efficiency reaches its limits and its deployment can be hampered by land use constraints.
This solution would make a big difference as bifacial solar plants harvest light reflected from the ground via the Albedo effect to increase efficiency by 9% and generate up to 40% more power when combined with tracking systems.
Despite what from the outside seems like a simple solution, it is estimated that by 2030 18.9 MtCO₂e could be avoided and by 2050 162.5 MtCO₂e could be avoided.
The next solution was more large-scale floating offshore wind. Projects developed to support this goal could unlock 80% of Europe’s offshore wind potential through a rapid scale-up of new generation floating wind structures.
This would help to solve a significant problem that the nearshore shallow seas are already saturated with industrial activities, while 80% of Europe’s offshore wind resource potential is located in water more than 60 m deep, which is too deep for conventional offshore wind installations.
The solution is for large scale floating wind turbine projects to drive down costs on offshore wind farms. This would have a big impact in helping to avoid 48.6 MtCO₂e by 2030 and 331.1 MtCO₂e by 2050. Amazingly, it is also anticipated that it could support 1,278,000 total jobs by 2050.
The next solution which stood out to me was 24/7 availability of electricity from combined solar generation, storage and grid. The idea is to build a trans-Mediterranean grid and electricity daytime baseload with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
This helps to solve the problem that solar plants provide only intermittent power, which is not solved with Li-ion battery storage that only provide one to four hours of storage. The solution proposed is for Large scale CSP in EU and North Africa with AC-DC grid, with 15-18 hours storage to provide base production (90-100% load factor) at €50/ MWh in 2030.
This ambitious solution showed that 30 MtCO₂e could be avoided by 2030 and 66.4 MtCO₂e could be avoided by 2050.
What you need to know
This article was the first part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the energy solutions.
Energy is a key enabler of a net zero carbon future, as it is very hard to have net zero carbon transportation or buildings without it.
On the negatiove side, a lot of time has been wasted, and there is still much to do to decarbonise this sector.
On the positive side, there is an alignment of breakthrough technologies, commercial interests and government support, that should allow this sector to make significant strides in decarbonisation between now and the key 2030 and 2050 milestones.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?