The latest news from academia, regulators
research labs and other things of interest
Posted: June 18, 2009
Energy Visions 2050 - New technologies and international co-operation to play a pivotal role
(Nanowerk News) VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland produces a great deal of energy and environmental research information that can be utilised in both public, enterprise and personal decision-making. VTT just published a book entitled 'Energy Visions 2050'. The scenarios described in the book suggest that the development and deployment of new technologies coupled with close international climate co-operation could enable us to mitigate climate change, but success will be dependent on renewal of the entire energy system by the year 2050.
Structural changes in societies and in the energy system occur very slowly. The transition to a more efficient energy system based on renewable and zero-emission energy sources has only just begun. It will be a long and complex process, which all levels of society and actors from governments to individual consumers can influence by their decisions and choices. US and EU decision-makers now have an opportunity to show leadership in energy and climate issues. The future offers huge opportunities to those who take the lead in the development and deployment of climate mitigation and energy technologies.
Energy Visions 2050 assesses the key challenges facing the global energy system over the long term, and presents an in-depth analysis of the various ways in which these challenges can be met. The examinations of future technologies encompass the whole energy chain - energy production, transmission and distribution, and end-use in different sectors, i.e. in buildings, transportation and industry. The book also includes a comprehensive review of global energy resources. The results of the Energy Technology Visions 2050 research project, which was part of the now completed ClimBus programme of the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), have been included in the book.
It is estimated that the world's need for energy will almost double by the year 2050 if the present demand trend continues. Developing countries such as China and India will account for most of the growth in energy demand. It is estimated that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to be halved from their year 2000 level by 2050 if climate warming is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
Fossil fuel resources are limited and, especially in the case of oil and natural gas, geographically concentrated. The majority of these resources are located within the territories of a relatively small number of states. If consumption were to remain at its present level over the coming decades, easily exploitable reserves for crude oil and natural gas are estimated to become limited within 40 to 70 years. Besides climate change mitigation, the energy security of nations and groups of nations is expected to become as significant future challenge and development driver. The global energy system, over 80 per cent of which is currently based on fossil fuels, will have to be changed radically by the year 2050. On the other hand, because renewal of the energy system will occur very slowly, the effects of decisions made today will remain with us for decades to come.
There are already new solutions on the horizon that will improve energy efficiency and assist in the transition to renewable and zero-emission energy sources. Already commercialised technologies offer plenty of opportunities for energy conservation and improved energy efficiency. In the building sector, for instance, current commercial technologies that typically add just a few per cent to construction costs enable energy efficiency improvements of tens of per cent to be made in heating.
In the future a wider range of technologies and energy sources will be used in the transportation sector. Over the next ten years we will see a progressive shift towards hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, and biofuels will account for a larger share of the energy mix. In the transportation sector, cars powered by hydrogen-based fuel cells are often seen as a long-term solution. Uncertainties about technology development and the importance of policy choices are great in the transportation sector.
In energy scenarios aimed at climate change mitigation, the most important electricity production technologies globally from 2020-2030 onwards are expected to be wind power, fission-based nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as advanced co-generation and mixed fuel technologies based on recycling and biofuels. Without addition support measures, the exploitation of solar energy will start to grow significantly from 2040-2050 onwards, becoming increasingly important towards the end of the century. Advanced nuclear power technologies will start to carve out a share of global electricity production in the second half of the century. These include advanced fission-based nuclear power plant concepts that exploit uranium resources more efficiently than at present, as well as fusion technology, which currently is at earlier development stage.
The scenarios presented by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and the Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT) in Energy Visions 2050 are based on extensive modelling, which has provided global scenarios for structural change in the global economy, the future structure of the energy system, and effective control of greenhouse gas emissions. The scenarios show that the mitigation of climate change through the development and deployment of new technologies and international climate co-operation is technical possible.
The scenarios are not, however, predictions of the future. The kind of development presented in the scenarios will require investments of billions of euros in climate change mitigation, and over a half of that total investment would have to be made in the developing countries. Questions about how the costs and burdens of climate change mitigation are to be divided up among the developed and developing countries will have to answered. Technology development requires investments in R&D, but they will create new jobs and new industries.
Energy Visions 2050 has been produced as the result of extensive national and international co-operation. Many experts working in various fields at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and the Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT) took part in the project, which was part of the ClimBus programme of the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes). It was funded by Tekes, VTT and VATT.
Source: Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)