France, which has all but abandoned coal-fired power, has warned it will have to ration electricity if this winter gets too cold. The US has a different problem: without an energy transition, they are unlikely to achieve their 2030 climate targets; In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster than the economy. Meanwhile, Elon Musk, among others, has warned against shutting down nuclear power plants.
All of these strains illustrate the inherent conflict between satisfying the world’s insatiable thirst for energy and drastically reducing our climate-changing CO2 Exit. The transition to a low-carbon economy is not just a massive, landmark undertaking; It’s also a lot more complicated and difficult to achieve than it first appears.
If the use of fossil fuels is to be drastically reduced worldwide, society must address the current enormous deficit in both the supply and distribution of energy with lower carbon emissions. Not only will these tremendous challenges impact global, national and local economies, there will be wider resilience implications.
Let’s break this down. Almost three quarters of today’s global greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production1. Reducing emissions to mitigate climate change therefore depends largely on a massive reduction in the energy that is now derived from burning fossil fuels. The anticipated evolution is that many of the world’s heating, transportation, and manufacturing systems — which now typically run on gasoline, oil, and natural gas — will run on electricity instead electricity Supply from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal or tidal. This transformation is sometimes called mass electrification.
The transition to a largely electric, low-carbon economy will require a massive increase in both renewable power generation and power transmission. This transition is currently in its early stages and will be a long and challenging journey.
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Fossil fuels currently make up 80 percent of the world’s energy mix. At the current implementation rate, renewable energy will only be able to meet about half of the projected demand increase of global electricity demand in 2021 and 2022, not to mention progress towards meeting basic fossil fuel needs. In the USA alone, current energy requirements are covered2 by photovoltaic (the best option for massive increases) would require 10% of the total usable technical potential3 of the entire country (ie the achievable energy production given system performance, topographical, environmental and land use constraints). That’s a massive amount of land covered in solar panels, with other adverse environmental and agricultural consequences. Our experience so far shows how vulnerable these sources are to wind and hail4.
Around a quarter of global energy is currently used for transport.5 Only a few vehicles (around 11 million) run on electricity. Under an optimistic scenario, it would be up to 230 million in 2030, but that would still be less than 12% of all vehicles on the planet. Even this modest share would require 140 million home chargers. And despite these noble efforts, internal combustion engines would still use 98% of the energy needed for transportation. Therefore, the ability to scale to a low-carbon economic model for the transportation sector alone is a daunting task. The challenge is compounded by the need to continue increasing utility-scale power generation to meet the massive new demand for power that needs to be generated and transmitted to locations suitable for charging vehicles, rather than mechanical energy through combustion in each generate vehicle.