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The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization VI

The Role of Technology Roadmaps and Roundtables

To conclude this lecture, I want us to spend a bit of time discussing the mechanisms that could ensure the timely deployment at scale of some of the technologies we reviewed, but also the many others we did not have time to talk about, but which are also critical to the success of deep decarbonization strategies in our economies.

661Some skeptics try to discredit climate change mitigation efforts by saying that this is against progress, that this is an anti-technological innovation agenda that we’re trying to impose limits to growth, that we’re trying to limit the right to development.

The truth is I’m not even sure if they’re convinced by their own arguments. What is sure is that they’re often made by the incumbents of the fossil fuel economy and it’s probably not randomly, because they have a biased interest in more of the same technological innovation. I hope I’ve managed to convince you that climate change mitigation is certainly not an anti-technological innovation agenda. In fact, achieving deep decarbonization is a formidable technological challenge and one that will require years of sustained efforts to develop and demonstrate these breakthrough new low carbon technologies.

But what is very true is that we don’t need just any kind of technological innovation. We don’t need new sophisticated technologies to explore always deeper fossil fuel resources and new technologies to drill under the Artic. What we need is directed and accelerated technological change. Directed first because we need technological innovation and human creativity to confront to the challenge of human induced climate change and find solution, not further add to the problem.

And accelerated technological change because we have a very tight timeline to avoid the dangerous effects from human induced climate change whose effects are irreversible. So we need these critical low carbon technologies to become available quickly and to be rapidly deployed at scale.

There are pretty good reasons to believe that the necessary technologies for deep decarbonization are within reach, from an engineering and a cost standpoint. But their commercial readiness needs to be accelerated by providing the adequate policy support and also by building the necessary public and private partners. Effective global strategies for a deep decarbonization must include strategies for promoting actively the development and the diffusion of these low carbon technology.

What is interesting is that there is a great deal we can learn from the previous successful attempts to drive technological innovation in a particular direction. All these previous successful attempts share a number of important characteristics.

  • First, clear goals and timelines for technology performance were set.
  • Second, public and private actors were organized around the development of long-term technology road maps.
  • Third, the industry both competed but also cooperated to identify the promising lines of inquiry and demonstration of these technologies.
  • Four, grants were sometimes issued on a always highly competitive basis.
  • And five, and quite importantly the intellectual property of these new technology was frequently shared or at least open-source in between the different participants to the research and development efforts.

There is one element in particular I want to stress because I think it is of high relevance when we’re talking about low carbon energy innovation. It is that technology road maps and technology round tables can play a key role in driving oriented technological innovation.

They could play a key role because they could complement the more market based instruments for the transition to a low carbon economy such as putting a price on carbon through a carbon tax, or an emission permit system, or implementing all different types of regulations.

It, it’s very important that you don’t confuse these technology road maps with rigid, central planning, because this is really not what this is about. It’s very important that a technological innovation process be adaptive. It’s very important that it does not preclude any promising technology from playing an active role in future mitigation efforts.

We need to leave room for new discoveries. And therefore the goals that are set in these technology road maps should be frequently revised. They need to take into account the new developments from science, the lessons learned from the previous faces of discussions in these technology round tables.

So it’s really not an exercise to pick the winning technologies for a deep decarbonization, because eventually the market will have to reveal which are the lowest cost option. But you should look at this process of technology road maps and round tables as an essential process to make sure the market has enough winners to pick from eventually.

These technology road maps have been used successfully in, in many technology eras, including a very successful one, the semiconductor industry, but also in genetics. And they were used to identify the priorities for research and, and development. It’s really true that these road maps help mobilize and organize the public and private stakeholders and expert communities around the definition of shared priorities and, and really help insuring the effective use of, of scarce unfortunately, resources for research. So they will also really be a key tool in driving directed technological innovation for the low carbon technologies.

The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization V

Electric Vehicles and Advanced Biofuels

Here I want to introduce to the debate some of the key low carbon technologies in the transport sector, because so far in the previous chapters we’ve been discussing mostly about promising new technologies in the power sector.

We’ve been discussing about smart grids and energy storage to operate power systems with high penetration of intermittent renewable energies such as solar or wind. We’ve been discussing about carbon capture and sequestration. We’ve been discussing about fourth generation nuclear reactors.

So mainly technologies for the power sectors. Although that’s not completely true, because carbon capture and sequestration, although its main market in the future might well be in the power sector could also and very importantly be used in industry, in the carbon intensive industries such as cement or steel for example.

652But as we saw when we were analyzing the results of the global mitigation scenario in the previous lecture, the decarbonization of the transport fleet is also absolutely fundamental to achieve emissions, reductions, levels consistent with the 2-degree limit. So it must start with the decarbonization of personal vehicles, but it must also extend to the Decarbonization of the heavy-duty vehicles, the decarbonization of aviation and also of ocean shipping.

So how can we do that? What are the options that are available to reduce emissions in the transport sector? Well there is a very wide range of cutting edge technology that hold great potential to decarbonize much or all of the transport sector. Which are the options? It includes in particular, high performance batteries, hydrogen fuel cells or advanced biofuels or even synthesized fuels. But the truth is that most of these low carbon technologies for transport are still pre-commercial or at least they’re not yet deployed at a very large scale.

Electric vehicles in particular offer great potential, especially for the private vehicles, but also for buses and even some say, possibly for trucks. But it’s important to underline here that electric vehicles can only be considered as a genuine low carbon solution for transport if electricity is produced by using low carbon energy sources.

This is why it’s so important to design comprehensive, deep Decarbonization strategies within the framework of the three pillars we have introduced. The electrification of energy consumption, in particular electrification of the transport sector must be combined with the shift to the low carbon electricity in the power sector.

651Most electric vehicles today use lithium batteries. And the performance of these batteries has already made great improvements in the recent past and it is expected to improve even further. Although the performance of that particular type of batteries, the lithium batteries is expected to improve only incrementally. But the good news is that we have many other option for electric vehicle batteries. They will be required to achieve higher energy and power density, lengthen the vehicle range and lower the upfront vehicle costs but there are many development programs currently underway.

I should stress that lengthening the vehicle range in particular is really critical to the success and the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles in the future because it would make sure that electric vehicles can be used for all sorts of purposes and not only for the short distance travels that we do within our cities.

It’s also important to understand that theuptake of electric vehicles is also limited today by the lack of infrastructure to charge the batteries of these vehicles. So to insure the large-scale deployment of these electric vehicles in the future, the infrastructure will also have to be built and not only the technology of the vehicles be improved and the, the network of the charging stations will have to be expanded insure the success and uptake of electric vehicles.

It will most likely require public-private partnerships with cities and local authorities in particular playing an important role together of course with car manufacturers and electricity companies. They should strike these partnerships to share the payment of the upfront investment costs of building this infrastructure network.

So that was for, I mean one of the most promising option of reducing emissions in the transport sector through the electrification of biofuels. There is another option potentially which is the use of biofuels. And especially liquid biofuels. They’re interesting because they offer the prospect of decarbonization of the transport sector together with the continued use of the existing infrastructure and technologies, including the internal combustion engines, but also the oil pipeline and the gas station pumps we have already built. So the fact that they use, they would use the existing infrastructure is of course a, a very big asset in favor of the biofuels.

But the truth is that the biofuels also have a very clear downside unfortunately. Or at least some of them have. Because many of the existing biofuels such as a maize based ethanol produced in the U.S. compete with other critical land uses such as food production or ecosystem needs like land and water utilization.

So it’s a serious concern. There is potentially a solution to this problem, a response to this concern and it lies in the, the development of a new generation of advanced biofuels and, who precisely aim to overcome the issue of the competition in between the biofuels, the food production and the other important ecosystem services.

There are many different types of advanced biofuels that are currently under development. Let me mention just a few. Again, it’s not a comprehensive list, but you can think of the bioengineered organism such algae or bacteria used to produce biofuels. Another example is the processing of non-foodstuff from non-arable land into biofuels and, such as cellulosic biofuels produced from wood products. And there are even efforts to produce fuels directly from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide without using any biological organisms, a process which we call artificial photosynthesis. Although it is still at an early stage of research and focuses on, primarily on producing hydrogen.

But overall and to conclude this chapter on the most important technologies in the transport sector, it’s really important that we would further, and I would say, harder on the research, development and demonstration of these next generation biofuels to make really sure their large-scale use doesn’t induce deforestation or doesn’t compete with a food production which would be a…a terrible news for food security in a world where we expect to have 9.5 billion people by 2050.

The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization III

Carbon Capture & Sequestration

Here we’re going to discuss about carbon capture and sequestration. So what is it, what kind of a technology is that? It looks almost frightening. So carbon capture and sequestration or CCS, I’m going to use the acronym a lot because otherwise it’s too long, is the capture of CO2 at large stationary point sources such as coal or gas fired power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, or steel mills.

625What are the common characteristics between these different types of activities? It is that they emit exhaust gases with a relatively high concentration of CO2. And it’s an important aspect of where CCS could be feasible.

We need to have somehow a pretty high concentration of CO2 within the entire exhaust gases to be able to operate the CCS technology. That being said, there are broadly speaking, I mean of course there are many more than that, but broadly speaking there are two different types of CCS technologies. What is called pre-combustion CCS technology and post-combustion CCS technologies.

So very simply with post-combustion technologies the CO2 is captured after combustion through a chemical process that separates CO2 from the other gases. Whereas for the pre-combustion technologies the CO2 is removed from the fuels themselves through other chemical processes, but this time as the name obviously indicates, before combustion. So that’s for the capture part of carbon capture and sequestration, CCS. But what happens after that, what do we do with the CO2, because it cannot simply remain in the air once we have separated it through one of these two different techniques?632

Well after the CO2 would be captured at the point source, it would be transported by pipeline to an appropriate geological site for storage under the ground. So what does that mean? I mean what could be considered as an appropriate geological site? I mean what are the conditions that must be met by these sites to safely sequester the CO2 under the ground for a very long period of time? Well as you can see on the picture in front of you there are broadly speaking again, there are more than that, but broadly speaking, three main different options for the geological sequestration of CO2.

  • The first is that what is called mineable coal beds, so it’s a fancy term to speak about the coal veins that cannot be mined.
  • The second type is the depleted oil or gas reserves.

So very simply the empty oil and gas fields, ones that have been exploited where you could put the CO2 back in. And the third and in fact the most important because the scale of these third categories is potentially much higher than the other two, the third type is what we call the deep saline aquifers. So types of geological grounds that are found deep under the earth’s surface.

633So that was for a very general description of the different steps in the process of carbon, capture, we should add, transportation and sequestration of this CCS. So where are we in the process of developing this technology? Well CCS has not yet been proved as a whole system at a large scale. But all the individual components of CCS, so the capture, the transport, the sequestration, all of them are pretty well established technologies and they have been tested in demonstration projects. And to date there are approximately 12 CCS projects that operate under the globe at stationary point sources and most of them are projects on natural gas processing plants while some others are on fertilizer production plants.

So what is really the challenge going forward? I mean what are the obstacles that would need to be overcome if carbon capture and sequestration was to become a real option that could be deployed at scale in many countries? Well there are serious challenges, different types of challenges.  One is costs. The other is scale. And finally there is an issue, an unresolved issue so far regarding the verification that carbon is really sequestered under the ground.

  • So the first open question, what is the optimal power plant design to facilitate carbon capture at relatively low costs?
  • Second open question, what is the best choice of geological sites for the storage of CO2 potentially at a very large scale? I mean we might be talking about tens or hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 to be sequestered during the coming decades. So where is the geological potential for that? I mean which sites would we select to do that?
  • Third open question, what is the design of a reliable and economic hope infrastructure for the transport of CO2?
  • And if you want a fourth question, what are the mechanisms for insuring that the CO2 that is stored remains permanently out of the atmosphere, a very important question indeed, because it determines the success of CCS eventually.

So these are important questions. There are of course other questions. All of them need good answers. But given the importance of carbon and capture and sequestration in many of the deep decarbonization scenarios, including the ones

634I’m going to present when I discuss the results of the deep decarbonization pathway project, given the importance of this technology in so many of these scenarios there is really an urgent need to scale up the research, the development and the demonstration of CCS to test if it can be deployed at scale, if it can be deployed at, at scale safely.

And if it can be deployed at scale at acceptable costs, because the truth is that being able to rely on the large-scale deployment of CCS would greatly facilitate the deep Decarbonization efforts, given what we stressed many, many times now and it is the obvious very heavy dependence of the energy systems on fossil fuels today.

The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization IV

Advanced Nuclear Power

Here we’re going to discuss about the new generation of nuclear power reactors.

Today there are approximately 40 countries with nuclear energy as part of their power mix. Countries in very different situations. Some of these countries are proposing to phase out their nuclear power fleet. This is the case for example in Germany. Germany will have no more nuclear power plants in 2023. Other countries are planning to scale back, such as France. France has decided to reduce their share of nuclear energy and its electricity consumption from 75% today to 50% by 2025. But other countries are planning to expand and sometimes dramatically their nuclear capacity. This is the case for example in China. China intends to build the equivalent of the entire existing French nuclear power fleet in the coming years.

641There are, to be frank, serious obstacles standing in the way of the larger scale deployment of nuclear energy worldwide. And the demand to be looked carefully and to be seriously taken into account. Issues of public resistance, in particular, especially following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

But also more generally speaking and unrelated to a particular event, concerns over the safety of the operation of nuclear reactors. Anxiety about the risk of proliferation. And worries about the issues of waste management. And also I should add, concerns over the costs of nuclear energy because grading the existing nuclear reactors or building new reactors to improve their safety following the recommendations that were made after the Fukushima accident will most likely increase their costs and probably quite significantly.

So it’s also important to recognize that the public support for a nuclear technology as important known technical dimensions that are therefore not easily addressed by engineering improvements.

Different societies have different attitudes towards nuclear energy because they have different histories; they have different cultures, different belief systems. But also because the management of the inherent risks of nuclear energy require the existence of an independent safety agency. And the truth is that the conditions of the independence of this safety agency are not really met in all countries.

That being said, the technical advances can play a critical role in the improvement of the nuclear reactors. And they will be needed in order for nuclear energy to remain a significant part of the power mix in some countries or even potentially to play a growing role and an important role given the need to produce low or zero carbon electricity to avoid dangerous climate change. What are these potential critical technical advances?

Well there are plenty of them, such as breakthrough in the safety systems, advances in fuel security, options for a fuel recyclingor techniques to reduce the costs. All of that will be needed if nuclear energy is to play an important and growing role in the future.

The development of a fourth generation of nuclear reactors offers the prospect of addressing some of these important issues. So what is it, a fourth generation of nuclear reactors? What were the three first generations anyway? We use the term, fourth generation nuclear power to bring together different kinds of advanced nuclear fission energy technology that share a number of key characteristics.

  • The first is the modularity of the production systems and the building of smaller scale units.
  • The second is the use of alternative systems for fuel repossessing or the use of alternative fuels to uranium such thorium.
  • And the third is the design of improved automatic and even passive safety systems.

And I’ll explain in a minute what that is because it’s one of the potentially most important breakthroughs of nuclear reactors in the future. What are the objectives of this fourth generation of nuclear reactors? I mean why do that, why build them differently from the previous generations? Well a number of reason.642

The first is that we’re trying to make the nuclear reactors more simple so that the reactors are less vulnerable to construction delays and cost overruns, which sometimes have been very significant in the past and still are today.

But also objective to address the proliferation concerns, a very serious concern. By making it much more difficult to divert materials for nuclear weapons at any point in the fuel cycle. And some of the fourth generation nuclear reactors address this point. But also and as I said, very importantly, almost the driving force of this fourth generation of nuclear reactors, the objective is to improve safety.

And in particular, through the use of passive safety systems. So what is it? Well it means that the reactor core would be assured by physical principles to be safe from the meltdown, even in the absence of active cooling. So that’s why we call it passive safety systems. So as you can see, this fourth generation of nuclear reactors offers interesting prospects. The prospect of significant improvements to the existing nuclear reactors, but they still require a high level of research and development and also demonstration before they could be eventually deployed and play a role in the deep decarbonization strategies

The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization I

The Need for Accelerated Development of Low-Carbon Technologies / Key technologies For RDD&D

Today we’re going to discuss in detail some of the key technological challenges that must be met to achieve the deep decarbonization of our energy systems. This is a very important theme of this course. And in fact, also a very important era for action at the international level because we’ve stressed many times now the importance of developing these new low carbon technologies in addition to the ones that are already available today and already deployed to realize the deep transformation of our energy system that is required.

As I hope you remember, at the end of Lecture that (see The Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems IV )I presented you the results of a global mitigation scenario that achieves a level of CO2 emission reductions consistent with the objective of limiting the temperature increase below 2-degree Celsius. And we saw that achieving deep decarbonization was certainly challenging, but also very feasible and required in particular the almost complete Decarbonization of electricity supply, the largest source of CO2 energy emissions today. But also the very significant, although less radical emission reductions in the end use energy sectors such as transport, building or industry.

611But if you remember correctly, I also emphasized that the implementation of the scenario depended on the deployment and the development at scale of technologies that are either not yet completely technologically mature, or whose costs are still very high. And today in this lecture, starting with this first chapter I want us to identify which of these technologies in particular are key to the process of deep decarbonization. But I also want us to go through each of these technologies one by one and review which are the main technological challenges that must be overcome if these technologies are to be eventually deployed at scale.

Make no mistake here, many of the technologies that are required to reduce the emissions from our energy systems are already available and many of them in fact are already deployed, at least at a pretty significant scale in the global economy. And this is true by the way for each of the three pillars we said were the overarching framework of deep decarbonization. So remember, improving energy efficiency, decarbonizing electricity generation and switching to low carbon fuels. In each of these three pillars we can pick many examples to make this point.

For example there are many existing technological options to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and our industries. Many options for energy efficient heating and cooling. The use of thermostat in particular can save you a lot of energy simply by turning down the temperature when there is nobody at home, or at night. Replacing the incandescent lights by light bulbs also saves a lot of energy. And there are also many options to improve the insulation of the building envelope, for example, by using double or even triple glaze windows. Appliances and electronics are also much more energy efficient than they used to be in the past.612

And what I’m sure you’ve noticed, the Energy Star label can help purchasing the most energy efficient equipment. So that was for just a few by the way of a very wide range of existing energy efficiency technology.

Let’s turn to the second pillar, the low carbon electricity. Here too there are already many existing options to produce electricity in a low carbon way with either low carbon sources of energy or even completely zero sources of electricity production. Example, hydropower has been used for a very long time now and is by the way one of the cheapest way to generate electricity. Many other renewable energies are also being used, although they’re being used at different scales. Onshore or offshore wind. Solar photovoltaic or concentrated solar power. Some of them have even reached what we call the grid parity.

What is it, the grid parity? Complex term for a very simple concept. It is the cost at which the low carbon technologies are, become competitive with the other alternative forms of energy. And some of the renewable energy, certainly not all of them, and certainly not everywhere, have reached the grid parity with some of their high carbon alternatives. Nuclear power is also used by several countries, in fact close to 40 countries to generate electricity. If we go to the transport sector to discuss some of the existing low carbon technologies, there are already a wide-range of fuel efficient hybrid, sometimes even completely battery electric, light duty vehicles. So for passenger transportation there are also vehicles using ethanol produced from biomass derived sugars and starch. Lots of them for example in Brazil. And also some natural gas or electric hybrid powered buses in many of the cities around the world and by the way, not only in the developed countries but also in, in large parts of the developing world already.613

So to summarize, there are already lots of energy efficient and low carbon technologies that are available today and deployed at some scale. It’s true that they might, they might not yet be deployed at a sufficient scale to reach the challenge, to meet the challenge of the deep decarbonization of our energy system, but it’s also true that they’re poised somehow to achieve much higher penetration rates in the future if we are to implement the right policies to incentivize their further deployment and in particular, the pricing of carbon that will increase the price of their high carbon alternatives.

And you can think of many, many different ways that we will discuss in the next lectures of pricing carbon, either directly through a carbon tax or through an emission trading system or even the implicit pricing of carbon through different types of regulations. But the point I want to make here is that the technologies that are commercially available today, alone, will not be sufficient, at least in many national contexts to achieve deep decarbonization, or at least they are not sufficient at reasonable costs.

The existing technologies might be able to do the job, but they will do so at a very high cost. So the development of the new technologies, some of them we’re going to be talking about in the next chapter, really offers the opportunity of lowering the overall costs, the overall investment costs of climate change mitigation.

But it will require important levels of research, development, and demonstration before we go to the deployment phase eventually. And in the next chapters, we will discuss some, not all of them unfortunately because we don’t have the time, but we will discuss some of the most promising technologies of the future. All of these technologies are known to some degree.

It’s not science fiction, not at all. But most of them are still under development of some form. Some of them have been demonstrated in pilot projects or in small commercial niches and not at very large scale. Some others are technically viable but at a way-too-high cost for their mass adoption.614

Some others yet the complimentary infrastructure that is needed for their deployment and yet some others face barriers for public concerns, so lack the necessary public support for their adoption due to concerns about safety, reliability or other types of environmental impacts, because it’s very important of course to take a sustainable development perspective at these technologies and not to look only at their potential to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.

Some of these technologies might have other important environmental risks that we need to identify and hopefully be able to mitigate. So in the next chapters, let’s see how we can confront these important technological challenges.

The Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems IV

A Global Mitigation Scenario

Welcome to the last chapter of lecture five, Chapter four. In the previous chapter, I introduced the three pillars of the deep decarbonization of our energy system. So let me just very quickly recap what they are.

  • the energy efficiency and conservation measures.
  • the production of low carbon electricity.
  • the fuel switching from high carbon to low carbon energy carriers.

As I said, these three pillars represent the overarching framework for these deep decarbonization strategies of our energy system. But before we conclude this lecture, there are still two questions that we need to answer.

  • The first is how do these pillars apply to the different sectors of the economy and how can the coordinated implementation of these three strategies result in the overall deep Decarbonization of the economy?
  • The second question is very importantly, the quantification of their effect by how much do each sector emissions need to be reduced to reach level of deep decarbonization consistent with the objective of limiting the increase in mean surface temperature below 2-degree Celsius?

To answer these two questions we’re going to use the results of a global modeling scenario. 541The graph in the top left corner represents the business-as-usual scenario, or the continuation of the current trends. This is if you will, the scenario if we don’t implement climate change mitigation policies which by the way, means that this is a scenario in which we don’t avoid dangerous climate change and we would face the catastrophic consequences from an uncontrolled climate change. As you can see on this graph, on the top left corner, CO2 energy emissions are increasing sharply. They go from approximately 35 gigaton of CO2 energy emissions by 2015 to more than 50 gigaton of CO2 energy by 2050. And in this scenario, in this business-as-usual scenario, emissions from all sectors are rising, but in particular, the emissions from power generation.

542To the country the graph in the top right-hand corner represents a 2-degree Celsius scenario. So in, in this scenario the CO2 emissions are reduced over time to a level that is consistent with the objective of staying within 2-degree of global warming. And as you can see on this graph, on the top right-hand corner emissions peak by approximately 2020 and then they’re reduced, they’re in fact reduced dramatically to approximately 11 gigaton of CO2 energy by 2050. So what do we really learn from the results of this global mitigation scenario? Well it shows a few important things.

  1. First it shows that staying within the 2-degree limit requires deep emission reductions in all sectors of the economy. Profound emission reductions in power generation, industry, transport and buildings. But what is interesting is that it shows also that these sectoral emissions, the emissions from the different sectors are reduced in different proportions. And that is due mainly to two factors.
    1. I mean first, the fact that the different sectors do not have the same technical mitigation potential. So technically not the same options to reduce their emissions,
    2. but also that the cost of these different options in the different sectors is different.

And on the two graphs at the bottom, you can see the amount of the emissions reductions by sector in the 2-degree scenario compared to the reference scenario. And I’m just showing you one example here.

But I want to stress what is really a general result of all global mitigation scenarios that limit the rise in temperature below 2-degree Celsius and it is that emissions from the power generation are reduced frankly to almost zero in these scenarios. And electricity production by 2050 is almost completely decarbonized and because power generation is done by using zero or very low sources of energy such as renewable energy, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, that’s renewable energies. Or on the other hand, nuclear power or fossil fuel plus carbon capture and sequestration. This is a very important result, because the power generation in 2-degree Celsius scenarios goes from being the major source of CO2 energy emissions today to being almost completely decarbonized. So producing virtually zero CO2 energy emissions by 2050.

Another result going beyond power generation is of course that the emission reductions in the other sectors, so in building, industry and transport are also very substantial. So I don’t want to pretend like this is only an agenda for the power sector. This is certainly not the case. The power sector needs to be at the front and center of the deep Decarbonization of energy system, that is for sure, but the energy end use sectors also need to see their emissions decreasing very significantly and very quickly. For example, in the order of 40% for the transport sector in 2050 and 70% for the industry and building sectors in this scenario.543
There are two things I would like to say to conclude this lecture.

The first is that this global mitigation scenario as all the others, again, I picked one example, but all the conclusions can be applied to all the scenarios. This global mitigation scenario consistent with the 2-degree limit rests on the deployment of technologies that are not yet technologically mature, or that are still far too costly to achieve deep decarbonization. Examples of these technologies include carbon capture and sequestration, or nuclear force generation, or smart grids and energy storage to be able to operate the power system with high shares of intermittent. That is, intrinsically time variable renewable energy such as wind power or solar power. It is clear that these technologies will need further research, development and demonstration before they can be deployed at scale and at reasonable costs.

The second thing I want to mention is that I presented you the results of a global mitigation scenario. But as we’re going to see, country specific deep decarbonization strategies show a very wide variety of different approaches based on different national circumstances. These different circumstances includes things like different socioeconomic conditions or different natural resources endowments such as, well different availability of renewable energy potential, or different potential for carbon sequestration sites, or also, and it’s very important to take that into account, different national preferences regarding the different technologies, nuclear or CCS or other technologies. But in the next lectures we will look in further detail at these two questions.

  • First, the key technological challenges that must be met to achieve deep Decarbonization and we will discuss each of them in detail,
  • and second, we will be looking at country-specific case studies to see really concretely how deep decarbonization can be achieved within very different national contexts.

The Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems II

Energy-Related CO2 Emissions Trends

In this chapter I want us to take a closer look at the current energy trends. I want us to take a closer look at the current dynamics in the energy markets because to see eventually how we can decarbonize the energy systems, we first need to really well understand what is going on today and how we can reverse the current trends.

So where are we?

521As you can see on these pie charts, in 2010, primary energy was approximately 13 billion tons of oil. And final energy consumption, 9 billion tons of oil equivalent.

I am using the unit of billion tons of oil equivalent to be able to measure within a single unit all the different sources of primary energy I mentioned in the previous chapter.

By the way, exactly in the same way, we used the unit of CO2 equivalent to measure with a single unit all sources of greenhouse gases.

522As you can see on the pie charts, oil is the biggest source of primary energy, 32%. Even before coal, which represents 27% of the primary energy and gas with 21% of the total. So fossil fuels really are and by far, the major sources of primary energy today. And this is precisely where the problem lies.

Final energy is primarily consumed through oil, again. This time for a 41% of the total. Then electricity for 18%, then gas, 15%, and coal for 10%.

But let’s look in further detail in which sectors and for which purposes the different sources of energy are used, because there are some important differences across the different sectors. As you can see on these other pie charts, coal as a primary source of energy is mainly used in the industry sector, 80%.

Some of the most energy intensive industries include cement, steel, or the mining sector for example.
Oil for its part is mainly used in the transport sector, 60% of the total energy consumption of the transport sector. Oil is used in particular in different forms, but in the internal combustion engine of private vehicles and trucks, but is also used for air transport and ocean shipping. Gas a fuel is mainly used in the residential and commercial building sector, most importantly for heating purposes.

That’s 46% of the total. But also gas is used in industry, for 35% of the total. And finally, electricity is used primarily in the residential and commercial building sector for 57%, to provide lighting for example, or electric heating or to power all different sorts of electrical equipment. But it is also used, electricity is also used in industry.

An example of industry that is very electricity-intensive, that consumes a lot of electricity per unit of output is the aluminum industry. In the recent past and in spite of the repeated commitments to reduce greenhouse gases emissions that we discussed in the previous lectures, the energy consumption and the CO2 energy emissions have continued to rise. And in fact, they have continued to rise very sharply.


The CO2 energy emissions increased by 10% during the 1990 to 2000 period. And they even increased by 30% during the last ten years from the year 2000 to 2010. And as you can see on the graph, the rise in CO2 energy emissions was especially strong in China.

Also in India. Although the Indians’ emissions are of course still much lower than the Chinese emissions. In the U.S. the emissions increased from 1990 to 2000, but they decreased from 2000 to 2010, in part due to a shift from coal to gas in the power supply. In the European Union the emissions fell steadily from 1990 to 2010 due in part to the implementation of climate change mitigation policies but also and a bit more unfortunately, more recently as a result of the economic crisis.

And the emissions as you can see on the graph fell very sharply in Russia from 1990 to 2000, mostly as a result of the collapse uh, of the Soviet Union, that the emissions are more or less flat in Russia since the year 2000. If the growth in CO2 energy emissions during the 2000-2010 period was so fast, it’s because energy demand rose very quickly in this period, mainly due to the rapid economic catch-up growth in some of the world emerging countries.

But it’s not the entire story. The CO2 energy emissions rose very quickly, also because the carbon content of energy consumption increased which is a very bad news from a climate change mitigation perspective.

In fact, almost half of the incremental energy consumption in the last ten years during the 2000 to 2010 period came from coal as you can see on the graph. This is absolutely gigantic and even more than during the previous decades.

524So instead of decarbonizing our energy systems, we are currently carbonizing them. The current energy trends are therefore completely out of line with the objective of avoiding dangerous climate change.

In fact, they lead straight to catastrophic climate change because they would induce a rise in the mean surface temperature by 4-degrees Celsius or perhaps even 6-degree Celsius.

So the current trend is a trend of very rapidly rising energy consumption and increasing CO2 content of energy when we should instead be further de-coupling energy consumption growth from GDP growth and decreasing the carbon content of energy by relying much more heavily on the low or even zero carbon sources of energy.

In the next chapter we’re going to see how this can be achieved.

A Short History of Economic Development III

The Great Waves of Technological Change

The Industrial Revolution had occurred. The new era of modern economic growth was underway. And, markets drove this process. Technological advance drove this process. First in a highly uneven way where just a few parts of the world were party to this new form of industrial economy and eventually to nearly the entire world. This is the period that the great economic historian and great conceptualizer of economic growth Simon Kuznets called the Era of Modern Growth. It is a unique period of human history. Now, we have defined economic growth as the sustained increase of gross domestic product per person. Or if we look at the whole world, we can call it the gross world product, which is the sum of the gross domestic products of all countries, divided by the world population. And in the era of modern economic growth, the period studied by Simon Kuznets, that world output per capita has increased on a sustained basis for more than 200 years now, in a very very uneven way, however. Some places have achieved marked economic growth for nearly two centuries.

Other places, not so much. Some remained poor, almost until the current day and some very particular places in the world, the world’s poorest of course, are places that have not yet achieved that takeoff of modern economic growth. We need to understand that process, and in order to do so we need to make a quite basic distinction of two kinds of economic growth. Each one is characterized by a sustained increase of output per person. But they really have a very different underlying dynamic to them.

One kind of growth, is the growth of the technological leaders in the world. In the early 19th century that was certainly England. This is where the Industrial Revolution occurred. In the middle of the 19th century and towards the end of the 19th century, Germany and the United States became the great technological leaders, even overtaking Great Britain in that role. In the 20th century, the United States was by far the most technologically dynamic part of the entire world. Though a number of other countries, certainly inventors in different parts of the world contributed to the worldwide stock of technological knowledge. But for those leaders there’s a very particular kind of economic growth, driven by technological advance. By new discoveries, innovations, new ways to do things thatthen spread and give an impulse of sustained growth to the economy. That’s what happened after James Watt invented his improved steam engine in 1776. It was taken up in factories, it was taken up in mines, in the locomotives of steam engines, in steamships and in many other technologies. And that gave a wave of economic growth of the technological leaders, those that invented those new breakthroughs. There’s a second kind of economic growth. That’s the economic growth of a country, that for whatever reason of history and geography. Perhaps resource based, perhaps just bad luck or bad policy. Stayed back, as those leaders charged ahead.

And so, a country like China, for example, did not industrialize in the 19th century, where England and the United States and Germany and other countries partook of the Industrial Revolution, and developed industrial economies. At some point, countries like China and we could say any of the emerging economies today. Looked out and saw examples of other countries far in front of them in technological lead, and with far higher income levels and typically as we know therefore much different conditions of life. Urban, generally longer life expectancy, generally healthier lives, generally more education, more public services, more opportunities and so forth. And those laggard countries had to solve a problem: how do we catch up? And that gave rise to a different kind of growth, and that is the kind of economic growth where a country that is lagging in technology and in income per capita, makes a tremendous advance quite rapidly, in narrowing the technological gap with the leader. These two different mechanisms of growth, the first one based on continuing innovation, and the second one based on closing a gap that has opened up by taking on the technologies of those advanced countries that have already been able to use them. Form the two major ways that economic growth proceeds in the world. The failure to understand these differences leads to all sorts of confusion in the discussion of economic development, because the kinds of institutions that countries need to innovate, for example, to have that first kind of growth. Endogenous growth, meaning growth from within the system itself where technological advance gives rise to more technological advance, those institutions are quite different from the catching up institutions. Those kinds of institutions, where the goal is to close the gap as fast as possible with the countries in the lead. For those institutions a stronger role of government, for example, can often be a major spur to a rapid, rapid push of economic growth. To close the gap that is already opened up. You don’t need so much innovation, but you do need widespread investments, development of infrastructure, the ability to bring in technology from abroad to close the gap. And so understanding the two kinds of growth, and therefore the two kinds of institutions that are needed to solve the growth problem is tremendously important. I want to focus first on endogenous growth, the growth of the technological leaders. It’s the kind of growth where one good thing leads to the next. Economists sometimes call this an increasing returns to scale process, and you get an ongoing process out of that that can be very dynamic. Clearly, in the case of modern technology, going back to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, there have been waves of technological breakthroughs. There have been many theorists of those waves: Kondratieff, the Russian technology historian was one of them with great influence in thinking from his writings until now. And one can think about the era of modern economic growth from the middle of the 18th century till now, having a series of waves, some people say three waves of Industrial Revolution. Others date them as four waves. But the notion is that these waves of technological change in the leading countries are the drivers of this process of endogenous economic growth. One classification says that there have been five waves until now. I think it’s a worth while idea for us to look at. The first of these Kondratieff waves in this particular classification, puts the stream engine at the core from 1780 to 1830 roughly from the time of James Watt’s invention to its wide spread application. The second of these waves is the great burst of railway and steel. And even if the technological roots of railways and steel come before 1830 the take off of those industries could be dated roughly to that time. The third of these waves is the age of electricity. Again, the discoveries of electricity date back to Benjamin Franklin, flying the kite and understanding electricity in the atmosphere, static electricity, to Michael Faraday and the discovery of induction and the beginning of the understanding of electromagnetism. In the first half of the 19th century, but then Edison and others applying the new knowledge of electricity to give us electric lighting, incandescent bulbs, city streets with electricity. And then of course, moving electricity into the homes and into the factories towards the end of the 19th century. After the Age of Electricity which is put 1880 to 1930 is a fourth wave led in this classification by automobiles and petrochemicals. Plastics and new polymers and new materials industries and much more. One could add, of course, the age of modern aviation. Again, the underlying technologies for the automobile date to the end of the 19th century, the internal  combustion engine which powers automobiles till today. But the economic, dramatic application began in the early years of the 20th century with the Model T. With Henry Ford’s inventions of modern production processes on the factory line. And with the mass production of automobiles which absolutely transformed the way we live, where we live, how we produce and of course, how we trade in the economy. The fifth wave in this classification dates to around 1970 but again with roots that go back much earlier. This is the knowledge economy, the age of computers, the great advent first of the huge mainframe computers in the 1930s and 1940s, much spurred by World War Two and the immediate aftermath of World War Two. And then the discovery of the transistor at the end of the 1940s and the invention of the integrated circuit which gave rise to the modern computing age, mobile phones and all the rest of industry that has been made possible by Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law you’ll recall is the fact that roughly every 18 to 24 months the number of transistors that can be put onto an integrated circuit has doubled. This means that the ability to process, to store, to transmit data has roughly doubled, or the cost of doing so has roughly fallen by half every 18 to 24 months. Well, you do that over a period of more than 50 years and you arrive at roughly a billion time improvement in the ability to process, store, and transmit information. And we know that is revolutionizing the world in this great fifth wave of the information and communications technology driven era. Will there be a sixth wave of technological change? The one we really need now, a wave of sustainable technologies. Ways to produce energy, ways to mobilize energy, ways to transport ourselves, and transport goods that take the massive pressures and the destructive forces off of our ecosystems. This is the great challenge. We’ve had now 250 years of modern economic growth. We’ve had waves of great technological change and we need to enter a new era. A new wave of technology, of sustainable development technologies in the way we live. The way we protect the planet. And at least we can take confidence from the past. And also grab on to some of the great scientific and technological insights that we have at hand. To give us hope and confidence, and determination to move forward to that next great wave of endogenous growth. This one based on protecting the planet and achieving sustainable development.