Decarbonizing a stressed planet
Increasing global energy demand in a post-pandemic world means the pathway to cleaner, more sustainable sources isn’t a straight line. While alternative energy sources such as wind and solar will play an important role in the decades ahead, all internationally recognized forecasts indicate fossil fuels will continue to be an essential requirement through 2050 and beyond as part of a diversified energy mix.
According to the International Energy Agency, to reach net zero emissions by 2050, annual clean energy investment worldwide will need to more than triple by 2030, to around $4 trillion. This requires a swift and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies, combined with a major global push to accelerate innovation.
The power of bundled solutions
The pathway to net zero requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally. There are a variety of solutions in play, including CCUS technology (Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage) and Bitumen Beyond Combustion. To dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, scientific creativity is generating bundled solutions, including hydrogen, renewables and geothermal, in addition to stand-alone technologies such as Direct Air Capture, next-generation recovery technologies and small modular nuclear reactors.
As an alternative fuel, hydrogen is plentiful, non-toxic, efficient and safe. Blue hydrogen could boost the resilience of Canada’s energy sector through various applications in industry, transportation and buildings. New technologies can be scaled to create fresh market demand for low-carbon hydrogen, and to decarbonize those sectors that cannot yet be fully electrified.
Direct Air Capture technology captures and uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The process uses industrial-size fans to direct air through a chemical process that strips away carbon, which is then stored underground or sold to industrial customers. Once thought to be unrealistic, several DAC pilot projects are either in operation or under construction globally.
Feeding the demand for low-carbon products
Clean technology breakthroughs are leading to advanced materials that are stronger and lighter, new and natural chemical applications and polymers, and novel processes that underpin the future economy. For example, Bitumen Beyond Combustion focuses on producing non-fuel alternatives from bitumen, including feedstock for carbon fibre for structural use, asphalt binder for infrastructure, activated carbon for filtration and vanadium for batteries, as well as components for graphene, polyurethanes, polycarbonates and controlled-release fertilizers. BBC and other energy transforming technologies and processes are pointing the way into high value markets with high demand for low-carbon products.
Most of the global reductions in GHG emissions between now and 2030 will come from technologies readily available today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions will come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase, or may not even be on the radar yet.
Learn from the innovators, energy producers and policy makers who are transforming the industry as they discuss the pathways to a net zero future as part of the Navigating to Net Zero knowledge track at Inventures 2022.