Monday, May 01, 2017

Cut Fossil Fuel Use ‘Dramatically’ to Meet Climate Goals, Says Shell-Backed Report

Cut fossil fuel use ‘dramatically’ to meet climate goals, says Shell-backed report (Credit: dabldy iStock / Getty Images Plus) Click to Enlarge.
The use of fossil fuel, particularly coal and oil, must decline “sharply” if the world is to meet the goals of the Paris accord, according to a new report backed by energy giants Shell and BHP Billiton.

Global coal use must be cut by 70% within 25 years, oil use must fall 30% and gas can increase by only 2% out to 2040.  The growing global population will instead get its energy from a huge expansion of renewables, combined with more efficient energy use and other low-carbon technologies.

Those are the conclusions of the Energy Transitions Commission, a group set up in 2013 by a cross-section of major firms, NGOs and academics.  Its conclusions broadly align with other pathways for 2C and below, but the commission’s membership adds an interesting twist to the findings.

Paris pathway
The commission’s report sets out a pathway to keeping temperatures well-below 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, in line with the less ambitious end of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  It says this path is hugely challenging, but that it is “technically and economically possible”, and that it would bring “important additional social benefits…and economic opportunities”.

The key elements of this pathway include wind and solar supplying 45% of the world’s power by 2040, with a further 35% coming from other zero-carbon sources, including nuclear and hydro.

It adds that “near-total-variable-renewable power system” of close to 100% renewable will be possible in many countries by 2035.  For example, it says “up to 98% [variable renewable power would be possible] in countries like Germany”.

This near-100% renewable system would cost $70 per megawatt hour (MWh), the report says, allowing renewables to be “fully cost-competitive with fossil fuels, allowing for all necessary flexibility and back-up costs”.

It includes a $30/MWh system cost to provide backup for variable renewables and the flexibility to accommodate their use.  It says this cost is “likely to be conservative…[and] could be significantly reduced,” if demand management and grid integration is improved.

The falling costs of renewables means that increasing shares of overall energy use could be decarbonised through electrification, the report says.  Around 10-20% of fossil fuel use could be eliminated in this way, using electric vehicles and heating.

Across the global economy, a “step change in energy productivity” is required, with improvements in the amount of energy needed to generate wealth rising from 1.7% per year to 3%.  To achieve this “energy productivity revolution”, more efficient devices and vehicles will have to be combined with deeper structural change, such as more efficient urban design.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions would fall, under these conditions, from 37bn tonnes today to just 20bn tonnes in 2040.  After that, the commission adds, they would fall to net-zero later this century.

Read more at Cut Fossil Fuel Use ‘Dramatically’ to Meet Climate Goals, Says Shell-Backed Report

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