Report Tries to Predict Hurdles That may Arise in Achieving Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

A new report has built a 2050 energy model with almost net zero emissions, and then looked back at the hurdles which may arise along the way.

The world will move from today’s global electricity generation of 24,219 TWh to a little over double this figure at 53,153 TWh per annum by 2050, with the largest gains in China. Despite this huge increase in power requirement, the world will manage to shift dramatically from the coal and gas-based generation of today, to one where renewables – mostly solar and wind – are dominant. These are the conclusions of a new report “Look Back in Anger,” from Rethink Energy, which builds a 2050 energy model with almost net zero emissions, and then looks back at the hurdles which were thrown up to prevent us from getting there.

The report finds that both hydro and nuclear will end up offering more generation in 2050 than they do today, but will only grow 15.9 percent and 55 percent respectively to reach 3,883 TWh and 3,611 TWh of generation. Renewables including wind, solar and geothermal and others will grow a tremendous 1,161 percent from 2,888 TWh of annual generation today to 33,519 TWh by 2050.

While wind and solar become virtually unchallenged due to their continuing falls in costs, estimated to fall by 80% of today’s costs over the forecast period, so that annual spending on this massive increase will only be 3.75 times the annual spend in 2020. However, the authors believe, this will take in all of the extra electricity required for manufacturing steel, cement, and switching as much home heat energy as possible from natural gas to electricity-powered space heating. It also takes in the regular recharge power for all of the 1.5 billion electric vehicles that will be driving around by 2050.

The report includes estimates of the emissions reductions in the land transport sector, and something like 9,989 TWh of electricity will come from dedicated renewables for industrialised purposes, much of it driving through electrolysis to be turned into hydrogen, for high temperature materials work which currently requires coal or natural gas. Much of this energy will not have travel through the grid, but the world’s grids will need extending and improving to be able to take the rest of the electricity uplift.

The 2050 oil landscape shows remnants of a once proud profession eking out an existence, trying to provide the remaining 225.6 million internal combustion engine vehicles that we see still on the world’s roads. Where once it was hard to find an electric recharger, it is now hard to find a petrol station, and of course those cars still pay extra carbon taxation, and the cost of petrol at the pump is 6 to 7 times the price it is today.

The report sees the emergence of super-powerful transnational utilities valued in the trillions on global stock markets, whereas the highest utility valuation today is USD 86 billion. A second set of successful multinationals which directly supply attached renewables to big industry, such as steel, aluminium and cement, will also warrant massive stock market valuations – this is a role that we see as the equivalent of the current global oil majors.

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