Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told 

At-a-Glance

According to the report from Finnish energy tech firm Wärtsilä, the U.K. would stand to save $860 million per year if, instead of new nuclear power, the government backed grid flexibility measures, such as battery storage and thermal generation. That equates to a saving of about $33 dollars per British household per year. Crucially, the analysis revealed that even if energy generation was to remain the same as it is today, Britain could increase renewables’ share of that generation to 62% simply by adding more flexibility. To learn more, read Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • According to the Wärtsilä report, Germany at one point paid almost $1.1 million per hour to export 10.5 gigawatts of electricity. Such inefficiencies, Ville Rimali, growth and development director at Wärtsilä Energy said, were indicative of inflexible electricity systems—while countries that had built flexibility into their power grids had no such issues.
  • On the other hand, investing in nuclear power could, according to Wärtsilä, entrench an inflexible grid while making renewables such as solar and wind less cost-effective.
  • Wärtsilä’s recommendations appear to align closely with those of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has stated that, as economies move away from fossil fuels, “power system flexibility has become a global priority.” Subsequently, according to a report released by the agency last month, much faster deployment of grid flexibility will be required if countries are to achieve their decarbonization targets.

Path to 100% Perspective

In the “Optimising the UK’s Shift to a Renewable-Powered Economy, Wärtsilä recommends a three phase strategy to accelerate a cost-optimal shift to 100% renewable energy and economic decarbonisation. 

  1. Support faster renewable energy deployment to achieve 80% renewable generation by 2030. 
  2. Increase investment in flexibility to unlock renewable energy and deliver a cost-optimal transition for consumers. 
  3. Future-proof today’s decisions to enable future technologies – such as Power-to-X – to achieve 100% renewable energy before 2050

 

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Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage

At-a-Glance

For decades oil producers have stored fossil fuels in manmade caverns carved into naturally occurring salt domes, deep below the surface of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Now, this hydrogen infrastructure will form the center of several marquee initiatives launched in 2020 to unlock the much broader potential of the most abundant element in the universe. To learn more, read “Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage.”

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrogen will power fuel cells to drive passenger vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, ships, airplanes, as well as heat and light buildings. It will enable levels of decarbonization unimaginable using only renewable resources and battery storage.
  • With limited demand and no real scale to date, green hydrogen sourced from renewable energy can cost four times as much as other options, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • “A truly hydrogen-based economy … appears out of reach, at least before 2030,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report released in November. “Energy transitions typically take decades.”

Path to 100% Perspective

Green hydrogen makes up less than 0.1% of the world’s 70 million-metric-ton annual hydrogen supply, according to the Green Hydrogen Coalition, a California-based nonprofit advocacy group. “Gray” hydrogen, produced from natural gas using high-temperature steam methane reforming, and “brown” hydrogen, made by gasifying coal, account for almost all hydrogen in use today. The chief customers are oil refineries, chemical plants and industrial manufacturers such as steel and cement makers. “Blue hydrogen,” a lower-carbon variant, also uses fossil fuels as a source but offsets emissions with carbon capture and storage. Blue and green hydrogen are not widely used at this time.

 

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Q&A Series: Ricardo González Romero Looks at Renewable Energy Opportunities Post-Pandemic

Ricardo González Romero is a General Manager at Anabática Renovables in Santiago, Chile.  He’s a subject matter expert on renewable energy serving in several different roles in the energy sector. He is also a guest professor at three different universities throughout the Latin American region.

Question:  Please describe yourself and your work. 

Ricardo: I am a General Manager at Anabática Renovables in Santiago, Chile, where my background and expertise is in consultancy, management, team restructuring, renewable energy support, along with greenfield wind and solar project development. Anabática Renovables provides financial and investment advisory services, reliable third-party assessment, and independent technical assessment for companies seeking to participate in Latin America´s wind and solar energy market.

My specialties within the renewable energy sector are in valuation of assets; mergers and acquisitions; project evaluation; management project; wind energy analysis; business development; and energy technology assessment. In addition to my current position, I serve as a guest professor at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional in Argentina; the Universidad de Chile, and the Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain.

Q: With your extensive experience in the region and work with Anabática Renovables, could you please describe the current state of the renewable energy sector in Chile?

Ricardo: Well, we are still growing up. Even though 2020 was a terrible year, our business has experienced interesting growth and next year looks to be going the same. Decarbonization, green hydrogen, investment opportunities, batteries, and more make the position we occupy interesting for all of us who are in it.

Q: Why is investing in renewable energy so important for Chile? And what sectors offer the most promise?

Ricardo: That is difficult to know in the middle of this pandemic! Chile needs to change. It needs more and more green energy to face a greener future and make the national industry more competitive and clean. It means we have to clean up our electrical matrix. We also need to pursue new projects, while the country needs to offer this possibility in a stable market with clear rules.

Q: Why do you consider the need to make a good return on an investment a main barrier or challenge for Chile on its path to clean and affordable energy?

Ricardo: In general, the world does not offer too many opportunities to invest (safely, on a regular basis). In our business, there is still a lot of competition and Chile, due to its economic conception, does not facilitate a return on investment as it happens in many other countries. It is necessary to be extremely cautious with the economic-financial projections, especially with regard to the marginal cost.

Q: Finally, based on your experience and work at Anabática Renovables, how can Chile lead the way towards 100 percent renewable energy? And what progress do you foresee for the region in the coming years?

Ricardo: Working hard. Making good estimations, considering externalities, and paying attention to local communities. We need to think in terms of renewables and batteries.

 

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New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050

At-a-Glance:

BloombergNEF (BNEF) published its New Energy Outlook 2020 (NEO) in October. The NEO projects the evolution of the global energy system over the next 30 years. This report is widely utilized by planners, strategic thinkers, and investors in developing long-term forecasts and plans. One of the NEO’s most notable projections is that the sharp drop in energy demand from the Covid-19 pandemic will remove about 2.5 years’ worth of energy sector emissions between now and 2050. To learn more, read New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

Other notables from the report:

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) reach upfront price parity with Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles before 2025.
  • Gas is the only fossil fuel to grow continuously through the outlook, gaining 0.5% year-on-year to 2050.
  • Coal demand peaked in 2018 and collapses to 18% of primary energy by mid-century, from 26% today.
  • In the NEO Climate Scenario, the clean electricity and hydrogen pathway requires 100,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power generation by 2050. This power system is 6-8 times bigger than today’s and generates five times the electricity.
  • Green hydrogen provides just under a quarter of total final energy in 2050 under the Climate Scenario.
  • Reducing emissions well below two degrees under the clean electricity and green hydrogen pathway requires between $78 trillion and $130 trillion of new investment between now and 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The dramatic fall in once-expensive renewable and flexible capacity costs has transformed energy investment over the last decade and the pace of change in accelerating. The cost of offshore wind, for example, has fallen by 63% since 2012. With a renewed focus on future-proofing their business models, utilities have increased renewable energy investments, taking advantage of the certainty that clean energy brings to the balance sheet. In effect, adopting renewable energy, coupled with flexible generation and storage for system balancing, is akin to purchasing unlimited power up-front, as opposed to placing bets on fluctuating oil prices and exposure to narrowing environmental regulation.

 

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CEOs outline 3 trends hitting electricity

At-a-Glance:

Major power companies held earnings calls in recent weeks to share their focus on issues such as expanding renewables and the role of hydrogen under a national push for 100 percent clean electricity. Additionally, CEO’s discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to delay solar projects and defer grid maintenance. To learn more, read “CEOs outline 3 trends hitting electricity.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

Here are the issues that major electric companies are focused on as 2020 winds down:

  • One effect of the coronavirus pandemic may impact renewable energy development. NRG Energy Inc. CEO Mauricio Gutierrez said a chunk of the pending purchased power in Texas may be delayed six to eight months because of supply chain and financing issues related to the virus.
  • CenterPoint Energy Inc. CEO David Lesar said the company will work on renewable natural gas and hydrogen renewables in Minnesota plus possible new transmission infrastructure to connect to renewable sources in Texas.
  • CEO John Ketchum of NextEra Energy Resources LLC said hydrogen will come into play if federal policy accelerates a zero-carbon goal by 2035.
  • Vistra Corp CEO Curt Morgan said Vistra has “a portfolio of highly efficient, low-emitting natural gas assets that can provide reliable, dispatchable power and complement the intermittent nature of renewable resources.” He explained a diverse portfolio enables renewable products that can ensure reliability and an affordable price. “Every reputable and objective study on the changing power generation landscape has natural gas playing a significant role for several years to come, especially as we electrify the economy,” Morgan said.

Path to 100% Perspective:

These are exciting times as the renewable energy future is a focus for so many organizations and governments around the world. Emerging technologies are moving closer to reality, which makes ambitious energy goals more realistic and the path to 100 percent renewable energy is now within reach. The big challenge facing power generators around the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved. Renewable carbon neutral fuels such as hydrogen and synthetic methane are being explored as solutions for sustainable and reliable power systems. Curtailed renewable electricity is used in the process with water to produce Hydrogen, and carbon is captured from air to produce synthetic methane with hydrogen. These fuels are used in flexible power plants to provide a long term energy storage for seasonal and weather management needs.

 

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Renewable Electricity Set To Power Past Coal And Gas By 2025

At-a-Glance:

Global economic growth has dropped this year because of COVID-19 and the energy sector has been among the hardest-hit, with oil prices at one point turning negative as demand slumped.

However, one part of the energy industry has defied the downturn – and is set to post record growth this year and next. Cost reductions and sustained policy support are set to drive strong growth in renewable energy. By 2025, renewables will have usurped coal to become the biggest source of electricity generation globally. To learn more, read “Renewable Electricity Set To Power Past Coal and Gas By 2025.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) Renewables 2020 report says that almost 200GW of new clean power capacity will be installed in 2020, almost 90 percent of all new power capacity around the world.
  • Renewable electricity generation will increase by 7 percent globally in 2020, underpinned by the record new capacity additions, the Agency says. This growth comes despite a 5 percent annual drop in global energy demand, the largest since World War II.
  • India’s renewable energy sector is set to double in 2021.
  • Global growth in renewable capacity in the first 10 months of 2020 is already 15 percent higher than the same period last year, despite the pandemic, and growth is set to continue.
  • But while renewables in the power sector are going from strength to strength, the COVID crisis has hit electric vehicles and renewable heat hard

Path to 100% Perspective:

As wind and solar power become increasingly cost-competitive, investments in traditional, inflexible base load plants such as large coal, nuclear, and gas combined-cycle plants are declining. This signals an end to the era of large, centralized power plants that run on fossil fuels.

Global financial trends reflect this dramatic shift, with renewable generation attracting more investment dollars than fossil-powered generation year after year. In 2018, investment in renewable power capacity was about three times higher than the amount invested in new coal- and gas-fired generation combined, according to the global renewable energy organization REN21. Worldwide investment in renewables has exceeded $230 billion for nine years in a row.

 

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Black & Veatch leaving coal projects in the dust

At-a-Glance:

Engineering and construction company Black & Veatch has announced it is ceasing participation in coal-based design and construction projects in an attempt to focus on more renewable energy work. Black & Veatch has been its increasing focus on renewable energy and energy storage projects over the last decade. The transition away from coal-based jobs will allow the firm to more fully focus on sustainable energy projects. To learn more, read “Black & Veatch leaving coal projects in the dust.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In an example of the company’s move to clean energy projects, earlier this year it was selected to work on the Intermountain Power Agency Renewal Project, one of the earliest installations of combustion turbine technology designed to use a high percentage of green hydrogen.
  • Black & Veatch will still carry out projects to convert coal plants to cleaner energy sources, as well as decommissioning existing coal plants. The biggest change is the contractor will no longer extend the life of any coal facility.
  • “Any decision of this nature will have an impact, but our global client base is overwhelmingly pushing toward a zero-carbon future,” Mario Azar, president of Black & Veatch’s power business said. “The fundamental challenge for the industry is whether to look to the future or continue to look to the past.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The influence of governments and organizations moving toward a zero-carbon future continues to expand to companies responding to the growing demand of their customers and investors. As the investment in energy-related innovation grows,  the renewable energy future presents more affordability, flexibility and reliability for organizations striving to accelerate decarbonization efforts.

 

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Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions

At-a-Glance:

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) would provide California with 15 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to meet its goal of a carbon-neutral economy in 2045, and it would save the state $750 million in costs for solar generation and grid-scale batteries, according to a new study. The report was released in October by the non-profit Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and Stanford University. According to the report, 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted by 76 large industrial and power-generating emitters in California, could be extracted and stored underground at a profit. To learn more, read “Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Clean firm power available whenever needed and most likely to come from natural gas, is necessary to smooth out the peaks and valleys that are inherent to wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, according to EFI.
  • Transportation accounts for 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The need for clean firm power will surge in concert with the growth of electric vehicles as the state moves to phase out gasoline-fueled cars by 2035.
  • Industry in California is a larger source of emissions than the power sector today, and it has few options available to reduce CO2 apart from CCS. Cement production, for example, requires high temperatures, but only 40 percent of its emissions are from combustion; a larger fraction is process related.
  • A federal tax credit known as 45Q offers $22 per ton of CO2 that is captured and used for enhanced oil recovery or other end uses, increasing to $35 in 2026 and adjusted for inflation thereafter. The credit is $34 per ton, increasing to $50, for CO2 that is captured and injected to geologic storage.
  • The research found that ethanol plants, hydrogen producers, and refineries in the state could capture and store CO2 profitably with existing incentives.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The record breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State this summer, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation and meet clean power mandates. The big challenge facing California and the rest of the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved. The “Optimal Path“ includes using power-to-gas (PtG) along with existing and future renewable energy.

 

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Green hydrogen: The zero-carbon seasonal energy storage solution

At-a-Glance:

Founder and former executive director of the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA), Janice Lin, explains the process of developing California’s 100% renewable portfolios and modelling California’s clean energy storage needs. During the process, Lin discovered the viability of green hydrogen as the solution to balance the grid. In 2019, she founded the Green Hydrogen Coalition (GHC) to research how hydrogen can offer the large-scale storage capacity and flexible discharge horizons to support a global clean energy future. To learn more, read “Green hydrogen: The zero-carbon seasonal energy storage solution.”

Key Takeaways:

  • CESA deduced that of the commercially available solutions, green hydrogen was the only low-carbon, potentially economically viable option to support seasonal, dispatchable, scalable energy storage for the grid.
  • Hydrogen gas can power the grid via multiple pathways, either through conversion in a fuel cell or by direct combustion in a gas turbine. Many gas turbines are already able to combust a blend of natural gas and hydrogen, and several leading manufacturers are developing new gas turbines that can consume 100% hydrogen gas.
  • By repurposing existing energy infrastructure, green hydrogen has the potential to make the clean energy transition affordable, reliable and scalable.
  • CESA changed their definition of energy storage to include hydrogen storage technologies, including purpose-built storage facilities as well as pipelines.
  • Green hydrogen is the ideal seasonal energy storage medium:
    • Hydrogen is abundant, offers separate power and energy scaling, can be produced from renewable energy and can be stored at scale.
  • Although lithium-ion energy storage is an important part of the toolkit, there is just not enough lithium to support the needs of a sustainable and reliable clean energy future.
  • Only abundant, available hydrogen can offer the large-scale storage capacity and flexible discharge horizons to support a global clean energy future.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Green hydrogen is produced with water, an electrolyzer and electricity generated from renewable energy. Hydrogen offers interesting possibilities for decarbonized power generation. In a power system that incorporates renewables and battery storage, for example, some of the excess renewable energy could be used to produce hydrogen that could be used in a power plant to balance the power system at times when cloudy and calm weather may reduce the output of solar and wind power plants. Hydrogen could be produced when electricity need is low, stored relatively cheaply, and used when needed. This would lower the overall cost of the clean electricity. Incorporating hydrogen in this way would add a long-term energy storage solution to the short-term storage solution provided by batteries.

 

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Green Hydrogen in Natural Gas Pipelines: Decarbonization Solution or Pipe Dream?

At-a-Glance:

Can carbon-free hydrogen augment, or even replace, the fossil natural gas running through pipelines to fuel furnaces, boilers, stoves and other building applications today? Or will the effort get bogged down in challenges related to pipeline safety and upgrade costs, loss of energy density, the long-term cost discrepancies compared to electrifying natural-gas-fired heat and appliances in buildings, or the pressure to direct green hydrogen to hard-to-decarbonize sectors? Natural-gas utilities around the world are seeking real-world answers to these kinds of questions. To learn more, read “Green Hydrogen in Natural Gas Pipelines: Decarbonization Solution or Pipe Dream?”

Key Takeaways:

  • In the U.S., the HyBlend project involving NREL and five other DOE labs intends to examine the long-term effects of hydrogen at different blends on different pipeline materials and create publicly available models for industry use. This kind of research will help determine how much it will cost to upgrade existing pipeline networks to make the shift.
  • “Hydrogen also burns very differently than methane”, said Jussi Heikkinen, the Americas Director of Growth and Development for Wärtsilä Energy and Path to 100% community expert, which is investing in engines that can run on 100 percent hydrogen. “It burns almost as an explosion. It’s a blast, and then it’s done. That’s good for efficient conversion of gas into heat, but it also brings safety and engineering challenges,” he said.
  • Making green hydrogen using carbon-free electricity also costs four to six times more than making hydrogen from fossil fuels. Those costs are expected to fall with advances in electrolysis efficiency, lower costs of renewable energy to power them, and economies of scale from the industrial hubs being built around the world.

Path to 100% Perspective:

When utilities go beyond 25 percent hydrogen in the fuel, in most places in the world, they are no longer able to use the same equipment. Electronics, for example, must be explosion-proof. There should be no sparks because hydrogen ignites with almost any air-to-fuel ratio.

Hydrogen is also about three times less energy-dense than methane. That means that as the ratio of hydrogen rises, the volume of energy being delivered through the same pipelines decreases.

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Q&A Series: Dr. Jacob Klimstra Discusses Optimal Use of Renewable Energy

Dr. Jacob Klimstra is a researcher and engineer with over 50 years of experience in energy, power plants and economic research and currently offers consultation expertise regarding energy, co-generation and engine technology. 

Question: Could you please tell us about yourself and your work?

Jacob: After graduating with my bachelor’s electrical and electronic engineering with honours from the Technical College of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, I joined Gasunie Research in Groningen in 1970 to work on pulsating combustion, vibration-based gas turbine diagnostics as well as process measurement and control. I subsequently studied mechanical engineering at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, where I graduated in 1984 with a Ph.D. which included a thesis on the optimisation of reciprocating engine-compressor combinations. Afterward, I worked on the introduction and technical improvement of cogeneration of electricity and heat. During that process, I wrote many international papers on subjects related to energy use and engines and gave numerous presentations. I also converted diesel buses and boats to natural gas.

From 1993 to early 2000, I was Head of Department of Industrial Gas Applications at Gasunie Research. In that capacity, I studied modern management techniques and implemented these in research management. This resulted in an additional activity as part-time lecturer in management techniques with a business school associated with the University of Groningen. From August 2000 till October 2009, I was employed by Wärtsilä Power Plants, as senior specialist on energy issues and engine-driven power systems. At Wärtsilä, I wrote and presented about 100 papers on energy supply, cogeneration and engine development. I also prepared and gave many seminars all over the world about energy use and the economy, engine technology and emission reduction.

I received the Richard Way Memorial Prize for my Ph.D. thesis, the Van Oostrom Meyjes Prize from The Royal Netherlands Institution of Gas Engineers for my work on cogeneration and received five Oral Presentation Awards and the Distinguished Speaker Award from SAE. In September 2000, I received the ICE Division Speaker Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2003, I became recognised as Registered Energy Advisor. In January 2005, I received the 2004 Quality Award from Wärtsilä. I was granted a Best Paper Award at the 2007 PowerGen Europe Conference in Madrid. At the PowerGen Europe 2008 conference, I gave a keynote presentation on the future of electricity generation. In June 2010, I received the Cogen Europe Lifetime Achievement Award.

Q: You have spent over 50 years as a researcher and engineer in the energy sector. Could you describe your work on the integration of renewables and ensuring optimal use? 

Renewable energy sources all have an issue with volatility, and I have reported and taught about technologies to allow a maximum integration of renewables.

Q: Why should the Netherlands push for replacing gas heating with electric heating on its path to a clean energy future?

Ambient temperatures in The Netherlands are quite moderate and therefore electric heat pumps have a good coefficient of performance. Using renewable electricity directly in a heat pump is a factor 6 more effective than using the hydrogen route and burning hydrogen in boilers.

Q: Now, why do you consider the cost of renewable energy to be one of the primary barriers or challenges the Netherlands faces on its path to clean and affordable energy?

The Netherlands currently use natural gas and that is a factor 5 to 10 cheaper to produce than renewable energy. One cubic meter of natural gas is about 10 kWh and it costs about the same as 1 kWh of electricity.

Q: Finally, what specific steps can the Netherlands take to help the way towards 100 percent renewable energy? And what progress do you foresee for the region in the coming years?

It will not be easy. Going for 90% renewables is a factor 10 easier. We will progress to having more renewable energy, but challenges will emerge after  50%. Cheap energy is the engine of the economy.

 

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Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra

At-a-Glance:

Becoming carbon neutral — also known as climate-neutral or net zero — is now a legal requirement in some countries, while European authorities are adopting legislation to become the first net zero continent. Even oil companies are getting in on the act. Buildings, airlines and events have also made the pledge, while investments groups managing almost $5 trillion of assets have committed to having carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050.To learn more, read Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is carbon neutral? It means cutting emissions to the very limit and compensating for what can’t be eliminated.
  • What are carbon offset credits? Developed by the United Nations and non-profit groups, these let the buyers emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas, which is offset by using the money raised to fund carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation.
  • Who’s trying to be carbon neutral? Dozens of countries have committed to go net zero, or at least outperform carbon-reduction targets set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • What’s driving this? CO2 pollution is still rising — 2019 was another record — and is unlikely to peak before 2040, driven by growing use of fossil fuels, says the International Energy Agency.
  • How will the goals be reached? To get anywhere close to net zero by 2050, the world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much will ride on technologies that on the grand scale required are as yet unproven, including carbon capture, using hydrogen as fuel and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Understanding the evolving terminology is useful, but embracing a plan that is possible, practical and affordable will combine knowledge with measurable results. As organizations add renewable energy to their net zero goals, it is important to develop a power system with flexibility, reliability and sustainability in mind. Renewable energy can actually generate renewable fuels that can be used to create a sustainable grid with a path to faster decarbonization.

 

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