Seven Emerging Technologies That Will Be Vital for Fighting Climate Change

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

As chairman of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) — an association of more than 250 public research centres and universities working on low-carbon energy research, made up of about 50,000 researchers across 30 European countries — Nils Røkke has an unmatched perspective on which under-development technologies could have a significant impact on the energy transition.

EERA plays an important role in the EU’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 as it oversees the European Commission’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan, , which aims to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies to help the bloc meet its goal. The plan largely consists of 17 research “Joint Programmes” that each cover a different part of the low-carbon energy sector, including wind power, PV, energy storage, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

In a wide-ranging interview with Recharge, Røkke discusses many of the technological breakthroughs on the horizon that could help the EU reach its climate goals.

Floating wind arrays could be cheaper than onshore wind farms within ten years, Røkke tells Recharge. “Innovations are going to come in floating wind systems, which is still in its infancy,” says the Norwegian. “And I think in the future that this will be cheaper than onshore wind because they can be made modular and you don't need to have tailor-made turbines for every application. You will be able to produce them in their thousands. Modularised design — and getting an efficient production chain for this — I think that’s going to be the next big thing.”

The cost of solar energy may have by fallen by almost 90% over the past decade, according to analyst Lazard, but the efficiency of solar panels remains remarkably poor, capturing only about 20% of the energy thrown at them by the Sun. There is still plenty of room for improvement. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology has cornered the battery market, accounting for more than 90% of all utility-scale and electric-vehicle (EV) batteries, and seeing cost reductions of 85% between 2010 and 2018, according to Bloomberg NEF.

In the past two years, hydrogen has emerged as a key technology of the energy transition, as it is a versatile zero-carbon fuel able to be used for long-term energy storage, heating buildings, long-distance transport and high-temperature heat in heavy industry. The pyrolysis process could also be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, not just methane, Røkke points out.

While biomass can be used for renewable carbon-negative energy — as planned at the giant Drax power plant in northern England — it will always be a limited resource due to land-use constraints.

The fifth generation of wireless mobile phone technology, known as 5G, offers super-fast broadband communication at speeds of up to 2.5GB per second, allowing remote locations to communicate vast amounts of data quickly.

Yet despite all the promise of these upcoming technologies, net-zero emissions will not be reached without new regulations and laws “to guide the energy transition”, explains Røkke. These should include emissions performance standards (EPSs) and laws that set a date for phasing out certain technologies, he explains, pointing to how the car industry has reacted to regulations on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. [Initially] people said they’re going to kill the industry, but it didn’t, and now these kinds of processes are all well-managed and controlled in terms of emissions. And we’ve seen that EPSs are not going to ruin our industry. It’s really showed that you need to have these regulations in place to make things happen.

“In Norway, we have a parliamentary agreement that all new cars sold by 2025 have to be zero-emission. That is really, really driving consumer behaviour.”

Without such rules and regulations, no-one will invest in technologies such as Clean hydrogen, CCS and carbon-negative solutions, he declares.

Information and image source:
Further Information: External Link