The UK minister in charge of the COP26 warned that the progress made in Glasgow is in danger of withering on the vine if action is not forthcoming. To reach net zero requires much more aggressive decarbonization, and the understanding that the ability to reach net zero varies from country to country. The energy transition research team at DNV proposed an Energy Transition Outlook – an independent view of where the energy transition is headed by taking into consideration economic, technological and policy developments. To learn more, read, “Why North America And Europe Need To Hit Net Zero Well Before 2050.”

Key Takeaways

  • The proposed pathway suggests that Europe and North America must hit net zero by 2042 and then become carbon negative thereafter. 
  • Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 does not require the complete phasing out of fossil fuels
    • Currently the energy system is split 80:20 in favor of fossil fuels, but the cheapening of renewable power is causing a revolution in the energy mix and they forecast that fossil and non-fossil sources will most likely share the mix by midcentury.
  • The proposal suggests that carbon capture and storage is an important feature of the pathway to net zero. 
  • Critics of carbon capture and storage say it unnecessarily extends the lifetime and influence of fossil fuels, but their proposal argues it has an essential role to play in the transition to net zero. 
    • Hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives offer a green alternative to many of the hard-to-abate sectors and whilst producing (green) hydrogen from renewables is likely to become the dominant method.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The strategies set in motion during COP26 must be put into play based on the variables of each specific nation and region while also remaining thoroughly rooted in science, data and engineering. No power system can achieve 100% renewable electricity just by adding more renewable generation – it also needs to slash fossil-fueled generation. That means reducing reliance on traditional gas- and coal-fired plants, whether they’re used for baseload or to back up variable renewable generation. And that can be harder than originally anticipated. 

The role of natural gas in power generation is increasing as it is being more widely utilized to run power plants that are integrated with intermittent wind and solar systems. As the share of wind and solar capacity increases and the net load to thermal plants decreases, gas power plants can also provide peaking to system balancing. Renewable natural gas can be leveraged as a fuel source to replace fossil-fuel based natural gas, thus moving the world one step closer to decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.