Hydrogen – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

Hydrogen topped several of 2021’s headlines within the energy transition narrative. Due to the Chinese, U.S., and European automotive markets – the demand for clean hydrogen is anticipated to quadruple electrolyzer sales. A flurry of hydrogen companies are expected to go public this year, followed by a massive influx of nations releasing their own national hydrogen strategies. To learn more read, “Hydrogen – 10 Predictions for 2022.”

Key Takeaways

According to Bloomberg, these are the top ten hydrogen predictions in 2022:

#1: Electrolyzer sales will quadruple, with China being the largest market. 

#2: The U.S. will see many hydrogen project announcements, but action will lag

#3: New subsidies will spur a boom in the European hydrogen market

#4: A flurry of hydrogen companies will go public in 2022

#5: Hydrogen strategies will be adopted by 22 countries in 2022

#6: Net zero will drive hydrogen demand more than carbon pricing

#7: Heavy industry will dominate clean hydrogen demand

#8: Green ammonia announcements will rise

#9: Policy will keep blue hydrogen on life support

#10: Alkaline electrolyzers will increase their market share over other technologies

Path to 100% Perspective:

Rapidly maturing energy storage technologies, together with sector coupling, are for the first time paving a route towards zero-emission electricity generation. The missing piece of the puzzle is viable long-term storage which will be needed to provide megawatts of capacity and megawatt hours of energy during long duration seasonal conditions or unexpected renewable droughts. 2021’s energy transition narrative often claimed hydrogen as the answer. Hydrogen-based sustainable fuels can be stored in large quantities and for extended periods at power plants for long periods of use, enabling clean capacity to be cost effectively scaled up according to the needs of grids.

2022 will show whether or not hydrogen continues to be promoted as a “silver bullet” for everything, or if there is more clarity regarding the most sensible and feasible use cases. A lack of focus and prioritization around hydrogen will simply delay decarbonisation and waste scarce resources.

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Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

At-a-Glance: 

Chevron Corp. purchased Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 billion, giving a significant boost to Chevron’s push into renewable fuels. Demand is expected to grow in the coming years as businesses and governments move away from oil and gas to cut carbon emissions. Chevron, like the rest of the fossil fuel industry, is under pressure from investors to help scale up technologies to advance a low-carbon economy as well as reduce its own carbon footprint. For more read Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

Key Takeaways

  • Renewable is one of North America’s largest producers of biodiesel, and they also make renewable diesel. The fuels are seen as critical in decarbonizing heavy-duty transportation that cannot be electrified as easily as passenger vehicles, such as airplanes.
  • Renewable diesel is almost chemically identical to traditional petroleum and therefore easy for fossil-fuel companies to adopt. 
  • As more big oil refiners — motivated by federal and state subsidies — gear up to make the climate-friendly fuel, the cost of vegetable oil, discarded animal fats and other feedstocks used to make it has soared.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will be a key step in realizing a 100% renewable energy future. Investments in renewable fuels like biodiesel, both in policies and infrastructure, will accelerate the timeline for commercial viability. It is also encouraging to see that oil companies have seen the critical need to pivot to remain viable and develop their own decarbonization strategies. Investments and leadership from large traditional oil companies will continue to encourage the transition and development of future fuels.

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Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

BloombergNEF, a strategic researcher that looks at ways power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors can adapt to the energy transition, makes ten predictions for solar energy for 2022. The list focuses on the rapid growth of solar across the world as prices fall and the need for storage solutions increase. For more read Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The article predicts 2022 will be the first year in which more than 200GW of solar will be installed.
  • Strong demand for polysilicon materials drove prices up because production could not keep up in 2021. With new capacity ramping up in 2022, there should be an adequate supply that should trigger lower prices. In addition, new technologies joining the mix should help solar manufacturing to grow.
  • Installed utility-scale solar-and-storage will double, with the largest markets in China and the U.S. Residential solar-and-storage will be on the political and investment agenda with greater urgency than in previous years, as it is starting to be a significant sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The growth of solar energy and the anticipated lower costs is a huge step on the Path to 100%, but that alone will not be enough. Solar, along with wind, is variable and can’t be relied on to provide enough power around the clock. At night, for instance, solar would not generate power in real time. So the key is finding economical and efficient storage solutions as a backup when needed. One realistic option is power-to-gas (PtG), which could convert access wind and solar power to sustainable fuels, like hydrogen, and store it until needed to power future flexible power plants. 

Exxon Plans to Zero Out Emissions from Operations by 2050

At-a-Glance: 

Exxon Mobil Corp. announced an “ambition” to eliminate a portion of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the oil giant’s first long-term pledge to curb carbon output. To learn more read, Exxon Plans to Zero Out Emissions from Operations by 2050.

Key Takeaways:

  • Over the next two years, Exxon will develop roadmaps for its crude refineries, chemical plants and other facilities to eliminate so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
  • The plan excludes carbon spewed when customers use Exxon products such as gasoline and jet fuel, or Scope 3 emissions that comprise the bulk of oil-industry pollution.
  • Although Exxon’s pledge falls short of those made by European peers like Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, it’s a major step for the largest Western oil explorer. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

Large energy companies have seen the value and opportunity in developing their own decarbonization strategies. They are joining the race to renewables using their name recognition, influence in the energy sector and budgets to spur more competition to the benefit of those striving for a renewable energy future.

Exxon and other mass producers of carbon emissions have an important role to play in decarbonization. Making infrastructure and technology investments now, while keeping future flexibility in mind, will help reduce greenhouse emissions in the long run.

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Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch

At-a-Glance:

French energy giant TotalEnergies SE expects global oil demand to peak before the end of this decade, as more nations crack down on fossil fuels and promote cleaner power in transport and industry to mitigate global warming. Total’s 2021 Energy Outlook, which takes into account new net-zero pledges made by countries including the U.S. and China, assumes crude demand will plateau before 2030 and then decline. To learn more, read, “Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Total’s Momentum scenario, which is based on environmental targets and policies announced worldwide, points to a 2.2 to 2.4-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
  • This year’s report “considerably” raises the company’s forecasts for global solar and wind investments by the middle of the century to electrify transport as governments increasingly ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles.
  • Meanwhile, natural gas is seen keeping its role as a transition fuel, especially as carbon dioxide and methane emissions are increasingly reined in.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

According to the IEA’s landmark 2050 roadmap, there is a viable pathway to build a global net zero emissions energy sector by 2050, but it is narrow and calls for a transformation in how energy is produced, transported and used globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that to limit global warming to 1.5C°, global CO2 emissions should decline by 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050.

Meanwhile, the price of electricity does not need to increase when power systems move to net zero. Utilities are shifting from a costly operational expenditure (opex) model, where capital is continually drawn into fuelling and maintaining legacy inflexible coal, oil, and gas plants – to a new model where up-front capital expenditure (capex) is invested in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy technology. Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar – and earning rewards from capacity mechanisms.

 

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Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. would need to quadruple the amount of solar energy it installs by 2035 if it wants to achieve a goal of decarbonizing the nation’s power grid, the Energy Department said in a study released in September 2021. According to the study, solar energy has the potential to power 40% of the nation’s electricity and employ as many as 1.5 million people by 2035. To learn more, read, Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2020, the U.S. installed a record 15 gigawatts of solar power bringing the total to 76 gigawatts or 3% of the nation’s electricity supply.
  • The study, which was conducted by the agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that by 2035, the U.S. would need to provide 1,000 gigawatts of solar power to achieve a 95% emission-free grid.
    • Decarbonizing the grid would require as much as 3,000 gigawatts of solar by 2050, the study said.
  • The study comes as the President called for a 100% clean energy grid by 2035 and a 50% economy-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as part of an effort to combat climate change.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

It is the job of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. As the current population emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments can lay the foundations for a smoother transition to a decarbonized world. To achieve this, utilities must commit to front-loading their efforts and investment strategies. Not only will this unlock a wealth of new commercial opportunities in a transformed power market, but the future of the planet and it’s population depends on it.

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Want to Test Your Carbon-Capture Tech? Head to Wyoming

At-a-Glance:

The prototype for a filter that can pull planet-warming carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks appeared promising enough to win a $51.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. After a decade of development, Membrane Technology and Research Inc., the California company behind the new carbon-capture technology, finally had the funding to run large tests. And that meant a trip to Gillette, Wyoming, a town of about 32,000 people that remains the only location in the U.S. capable of running trials on carbon-capture devices at close to real-world scale. To learn more, read “Want to Test Your Carbon-Capture Tech? Head to Wyoming.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the media outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • The only alternative to the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, as the facility is known, would have been for the company to build its own demonstration site, at great cost.
  • For more than a decade the global consortium of scientists with the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has endorsed the necessity of carbon-capture technology to avoid the worst impacts of warming temperatures.
  • A recent report by Bloomberg News found that several major power operators in the U.S. with net-zero goals currently justify their plans to build new gas-fired plants by relying on adoption of carbon capture and storage technology that doesn’t yet exist at scale.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Free-market forces are pushing companies, large and small, to address climate change. Accelerating decarbonization efforts is the subject of discussions, research and multiple organizational goals. Carbon capture technology is gaining interest in the energy sector around the world as industries seek innovation, traction and affordability. The innovative technologies being developed and deployed by companies such as Membrane Technology and Research, will go a long way to make carbon capture and storage both affordable and accessible for the entire world. While much more will need to be accomplished before achieving a 100% renewable energy future, these efforts are charting a productive course to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon releases by 2050.

 

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Airline Industry to Weigh Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

At-a-Glance:

The airline industry’s global trade group will propose eliminating carbon emissions on a net basis by 2050, as pressure builds to improve the climate goals of a segment that’s come under increasing criticism for its use of fossil fuels. To learn more, read “Airline Industry to Weigh Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) will ask carriers to adopt the target at its annual meeting in Boston in October, according to IATA’s director general, Willie Walsh.
  • While airlines including British Airways owner IAG SA, Delta Airlines Inc. and United Airlines Holding Inc. have all made net-zero commitments, IATA hasn’t updated its own goal since 2009. At that time, airlines pledged to cut CO2 output 50% by mid-century, compared with 2005 levels.
  • IATA intends to hold planemaker AirBus SE to a pledge to produce a hydrogen-fueled aircraft by 2035 and said the model needs to have a size comparable to the top-selling A320 narrow body – carrying 150 people – and a range of at least 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
  • Airlines’ CO2 emissions reached about 915 million metric tons in 2019, according to the Air Transportation Action Group.
  • Based on 2005 levels, IATA’s current target is for carriers to reduce carbon emissions to 325 million metric tons by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing to meet ambitious renewable energy goals will require new approaches and ways of thinking, especially in aviation. Shifting to hydrogen and carbon neutral fuels is one path the industry can take to reduce carbon emissions. This will require investments in technologies such as power-to-gas and carbon capture to produce renewable fuels at scale for the transportation sector.

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All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones

At-a-Glance:

In May, the International Energy Agency published a report that details the pathway to net-zero emissions in the global energy system. The IEA was born of an oil crisis and its long-term mandate has been the security of the energy supply, to include enough fossil fuel to run the power, transport, and industrial processes of developed economies. It’s a redefinition of a guiding principle for the global energy system—from securing adequate supply to minimizing, or even zeroing out, the impacts of demand. To learn more, read All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aluminum is one of the world’s most ubiquitous metals, used in everything from consumer goods to electronics to infrastructure.
    • Producing it is energy-intensive, and at the moment, more than two-thirds of its energy consumption comes from coal and natural gas.
    • Aluminum is responsible for about 4% of industrial emissions and 1% of all global emissions.
  • Alcoa, Rio Tinto, Apple, the government of Canada, and the provincial government of Quebec have invested in a developing process that uses inert anodes—which don’t produce CO₂—and zero-carbon power to drive emissions to zero.
  • BNEF ran the numbers and the production costs with this method could be lower than with traditional methods—and significantly lower than with processes that use carbon offsets to cancel out their CO₂ emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Clean energy investments around the world have been growing at more than $300 billion annually over the course of the past five years. McKinsey’s Global Energy Perspective 2019 predicts that by 2035, renewable energy generation will account for 50% of the world’s total generation. That, in turn, is expected to substantially increase the demand for several metals such as copper, aluminium, bauxite, iron, lead, graphite, tin, nickel and zinc which are used to produce renewable energy.

Stockpiles of various metals, to include aluminum, are deplenishing, while the time to find new reserves is increasing. This could lead to a situation where the production of metals will not be able to keep up with increasing demand. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Renewable Resources at Mines tracker, estimates there are 57 mines across 21 countries with a total installed renewable energy capacity of 1178 MW.

 

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How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says

At-a-Glance:

Global recessions, wars, and pandemics have a way of driving down energy demand. Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the collapse in global primary energy demand brought on by COVID-19 was the biggest drop since the end of World War II, itself the biggest drop since the influenza pandemic after World War I. IEA also reported that renewable power capacity grew at its fastest pace this century in 2020, raising its growth forecast for wind and solar power for this year and next.According to the Paris-based energy watchdog, renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased last year. The addition to the world’s renewable electricity capacity last year was 45% more than in the prior year and the biggest jump since 1999, as wind and solar farms sprang up across the world’s major economies. To learn more, read How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the news outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewable energy installations not only increased during the pandemic, they exceeded even the most bullish of expectations, with wind installations increasing 90% and solar increasing 23%.
  • IEA estimates that in 2022, renewables will account for 90% of new power capacity expansion globally.
  • ​​“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, adding that greater use of lower-carbon electricity was needed for the world to achieve its carbon-reduction goals.
  • The European Union plans to spend $1 trillion to reach its goal of net carbon neutrality by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

U.S. renewable energy adoption continues to rise, in 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for 17.5% of total utility-scale electricity generation, with renewable energy generation reaching 720 TWh. More than 70% of energy stimulus funding is currently allocated to legacy fossil fuels, compared to less than 30% to clean energy. However, reallocating $72 billion in energy stimulus funding could achieve:

  • 107 GW of new renewable energy capacity
  • 6.5 % rise in share of renewable electricity generation (from 17.5% to 24% renewable electricity).
  • 544,000 new jobs in renewable energy, 175% more jobs than if the same stimulus was used to revive the legacy energy sector.

The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company

At-a-Glance:

In late April, a raft of oil majors released their first quarter results with companies like Royal Dutch Shell Plc showing a return to pre-pandemic profit levels. At the same time, some of the majors increased their energy transition commitments. Spanish firm Repsol SA devoted 40% of its capital expenditure to low-carbon projects, and France’s Total SE stated plans to increase its renewable energy capacity five-fold over the next four years. To learn more, read “The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Norway’s state-owned oil producer, Equinor ASA posted more than $2.6 billion of earnings in the first quarter of 2021, 49% of which was from renewable energy.
  • Last quarter, Equinor earned more from renewables than it did from oil and gas exploration and production.
  • Equinor is farming down to two European oil majors: BP Plc is buying into the U.S. projects, and Italy’s Eni SpA is buying into the U.K. projects – they are paying Equinor for the privilege of taking on the early stages of developing offshore wind.
  • One reason Equinor could be an early developer of U.S. offshore wind is that it has decades of experience developing and operating offshore oil and gas assets.
  • Equinor is two-thirds owned by the Kingdom of Norway, with Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global owning another 3.59% of the company via Folketrygdfondet, which expects its portfolio companies to integrate climate change considerations into policies and strategy.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that more than two-thirds of Earth’s population already lives in countries where solar or wind — or both — are the least-expensive sources of new electricity generation. 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. Worldwide investment in renewables has exceeded $230 billion for nine years in a row.

New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases

At-a-Glance:

The new CEO of SunPower Corp. – a veteran of Amazon.com Inc. – wants to make the rooftop solar-buying process easier for homeowners. in an interview Wednesday. “Until we make getting solar as simple as buying a book on Amazon, we’re not going to stop,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Peter Faricy said. To learn more, read “New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interest in residential solar is surging in the U.S. with climate change a threat to the power grid, however, only about 3% of the country’s homes are equipped with panels.
  • Rooftop-solar companies attribute market penetration to lengthy permitting processes and low-tech sales techniques.
  • SunPower’s new CEO, Peter Faricy, who spent 13 years at Amazon.com, thinks the solar business is ripe for digital innovation.
  • SunPower deployed 77 megawatts of residential solar in the first quarter, up from 70 megawatts during the same period last year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050. Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize  power systems fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and future fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.