Huge renewables expansion needed to meet climate goals
The energy transition requires 10 times more solar and five times more wind power in combination with other technology to limit global warming and meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, according to DNV GL.
The company’s latest ‘Energy Transition Outlook: Power Supply and Use’ report finds that the energy transition is accelerating more quickly than previously thought, but the rate is still too slow to limit global temperatures rising by well below 2°C as set out in the Paris Agreement.
DNV GL forecasts temperature will have increased 2.4°C by the end of this century above the immediate pre-industrial period.
It added that the technology already exists to curb emissions enough to hit the climate target, but what is needed to ensure this happens are far-reaching policy decisions.
DNV GL recommends that several measures related to technology are put in place to help close the gap to reach the climate change goals.
Grow solar power by more than 10 times to 5TW and wind by five times to 3TW by 2030, which would meet 50% of the global electricity use per year.
There should be a 50-fold increase in production of batteries for the 50 million electric vehicles needed per year by 2030, alongside investments in new technology to store excess electricity and solutions that allow grids to cope with the growing influx of solar and wind power.
New infrastructure should be created for charging electric vehicles on a large scale:
More than $1.5 trillion of annual investment is needed for the expansion and reinforcement of power grids by 2030, including ultra-high-voltage transmission networks and extensive demand-response solutions to balance variable wind and solar power.
Global energy efficiency improvements need to be increased by 3.5% per year within the next decade.
Green hydrogen should be used to heat buildings and industry, fuel transport and make use of excess renewable energy in the power grid.
In the heavy industry sector there should be increased electrification of manufacturing processes, including electrical heating, together with onsite renewable sources combined with storage solutions.
There should also be more use of heat-pump technologies, improved insulation, huge rail expansion both for city commuting and long-distance passenger and cargo transport, and the rapid and wide deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage installations.
DNV GL said that by 2050 power generation from solar and wind energy will be 36,000 terawatt hours a year, more than 20 times today’s output.
China and India will have the largest share of solar energy by mid-century, with a 40% in China, followed by the Indian subcontinent at 17%.
Globally, renewable energy will provide almost 80% of the world’s electricity by 2050 according to the report.
Electrification will see increasing use of heat pumps, electric arc furnaces and an electric vehicle revolution, with 50% of all new cars sold in 2032 being electric vehicles.
But, despite this rapid pace, the energy transition is not fast enough. DNV GL’s forecast indicates that for a 1.5°C warming limit, the remaining carbon budget will be exhausted as early as 2028, with an overshoot of 770 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2050.
DNV GL Energy chief executive Ditlev Engel said: “Our research shows that technology has the power to close the emissions gap and create a clean energy future.
“But time is against us. Those technology measures can only be successful if they are supported by extraordinary policy action.
“We are calling for government policies to expand and adapt power grids to accommodate the rise of renewables, economic stimulus for energy efficiency measures and regulatory reform to accelerate the electrification of transport.
“Governments, businesses and society as a whole need to change the prevailing mindset from ‘business-as-usual’ to ‘business-as-unusual’ to fast-track the energy transition.”
The report indicates that the energy transition is affordable, with the world spending an ever-smaller share of GDP on energy.
Global expenditure on energy is currently 3.6% of GDP but that will fall to 1.9% by 2050.
This is due to the plunging costs of renewables and other efficiencies, allowing for greater investment to accelerate the transition, DNV GL said.