We often read or hear that there is nothing to be done, that it is an impossible mission, because about 80% of the energy we consume comes from fossil fuels and new renewables (wind, photovoltaic and hydraulic) make up barely 10%, the rest There are biomass, conventional and others.
I mean, we don’t even try, they propose… I mean, let’s eliminate coal, gas and oil (a few generations) and whatever happens.
It will be a double play due to the climate crisis and its worst consequences: loss of agricultural and fishing productivity, extreme weather events, drought in some places, torrential rains in others, loss of ice, sea level rise, diseases, Migration, war… and if we survive it, an energy blackout, because the reserves of these fossil fuels last barely half a century at the current growth rate of their consumption…
Well, we have to try to do better.
The chart above is from IRENA, which has just released a preview of its WETO 2023 (World Energy Transition Outlook). This reflects the challenging work that humanity has to do in the coming decades. On the left, a breakdown of final energy consumption in 2020. On the right, the 2050 target.
We start with an economy based on the combustion of fossil fuels. Let’s look at the problem with its possible solutions:
1.- Fossil fuel should go from 66% to 12%. With this breakdown:
Oil: represents 36% of the energy. It is used in transportation and in some heating and industry. Transport should be electrified. On the ground, through renewable electricity in batteries and catenary. In sea and air, by derivatives of electrolytic hydrogen (eH2). In heating it must be eliminated by means of electric heat pumps and biomethane. In industry, you can continue to manufacture plastics and others. It is necessary to reduce its consumption by 4-5%. It will not be easy.
– Natural gas: represents 15% and should be reduced to 4-5% in 2050. Its main energy use is electricity and heat generation. In generation, this should be minimized to the maximum through the deployment of renewables and biomethane. In heating, by heat pump. In transportation, I shouldn’t even get started…
– Coal: 13% which should almost disappear (2%). It is mainly used in the production of electricity which must be renewable. and in thermal and industrial uses where it should be replaced by eH2.
2.- Non-renewable electricity, 72% of 20% = 14%: it must be renewable or nuclear.
3.- The remaining changes are less aggressive: the biomass must be of the second generation: residues, not crops. Hydrogen should take advantage of surplus renewables. And we should deploy other renewables (geothermal, tidal, waves, etc.), in addition to the main renewables (water, wind, and sun). as well as storage and demand management measures.
The graph doesn’t say so, but it follows that there should be a tremendous performance of energy efficiency, as there will be about 10,000 million inhabitants in 2050 (2,000 more than now), each consuming a little more, so, thanks to that efficiency energy and transportation and electrification of heat, global consumption of final energy should fall from 417 eJ to 353 eJ.
Obviously, it won’t be easy. But the habitable conditions of the planet will depend on it. Investment needs to be multiplied and redirected. We must stop investing in fossil fuels and triple our investment in renewable energy… tomorrow.