Whether it is to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change, because the reserves of easy accessible fossil fuels are shrinking, or for geopolitical reasons, it looks like the world economy will have to move away from fossil fuels in the coming decades. Given the massive role of fossil fuels today, this is an enormous challenge. Ensuring our future energy supply without fossil fuels will need a radical reorientation.
In which technologies should governments, companies and institutions invest? That is the question. This paper contains some initial thought exercises that could lead to an answer.
The transition towards a non-fossil fuel economy has started, but is still in its infancy. We have only achieved a small part of the shift so far, and we are in acute need of an integrated vision of how to proceed.
It is important to recognise the urgency of the matter. It requires solutions that, as far as possible, build on existing systems and technologies, while taking care not to lock-in costly and ultimately unsuitable solutions.
Since a clear vision of the energy systems of the future is still lacking, it would be good if we could start the change without having to make all the decisions right away.
Taking all these elements into account, the only serious option we have today is to go for the ‘electrical society’ as sketched above. It is a system that is already up and running, but needs to be adapted to meet the additional needs of transport and heating, and cope with renewable and carbon free energy sources. This is where we should invest the majority of our resources.
There are very few alternatives to this vision. A lot of enthusiasm is being expressed for various parts of the energy system, but very few comprehensive solutions for the energy society as a whole are being presented.
This doesn’t mean that electricity is the only domain that should receive support. Proportional slices of the cake could go to other technologies that are useful as alternatives on a local level or in specific applications.
A smaller share of the resources could also go to research on technologies that might offer new solutions in the longer term, such as algae, energy from space or nuclear fusion.
This white paper describes three major routes to a low-carbon or zero-carbon society based on bioenergy, hydrogen or electricity. It then proposes a roadmap for moving in this direction.Log in to post comments