the energy [r]evolution concept
The expert consensus is that a fundamental shift in the way we consume and generate energy must begin immediately and be well underway within the next ten years in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change.16 The scale of the challenge requires a complete transformation of the way we produce, consume and distribute energy, while maintaining economic growth. Nothing short of such a revolution will enable us to limit global warming to a rise in temperature of lower than 2°C, above which the impacts become devastating.This chapter explains the basic principles and strategic approach of the Energy [R]evolution concept, which have formed the basis for the scenario modelling since the very first Energy [R]evolution scenario published in 2005. However, this concept has been constantly improved as technologies develop and new technical and economical possibilities emerge.
Current electricity generation relies mainly on burning fossil fuels in very large power stations which generate carbon dioxide and also waste much of their primary input energy. More energy is lost as the power is moved around the electricity network and is converted from high transmission voltage down to a supply suitable for domestic or commercial consumers. The system is vulnerable to disruption: localised technical, weather-related or even deliberately caused faults can quickly cascade, resulting in widespread blackouts. Whichever technology generates the electricity within this old fashioned configuration, it will inevitably be subject to some, or all, of these problems. At the core of the Energy [R]evolution therefore there are changes both to the way that energy is produced and distributed.
2.1 key principles
1. Respect natural limits – phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century
We must learn to respect natural limits. There is only so much carbon that the atmosphere can absorb. Each year we emit almost 30 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent; we are literally filling up the sky. Geological resources of coal could provide several hundred years of fuel, but we cannot burn them and keep within safe limits. Oil and coal development must be ended.
The global Energy [R]evolution scenario has a target to reduce energy related CO2 emissions to a maximum of 3.5 Gigatonnes (Gt) by 2050 and phase out over 80% of fossil fuels by 2050.
2. Equity and fair access to energy
As long as there are natural limits there needs to be a fair distribution of benefits and costs within societies, between nations and between present and future generations. At one extreme, a third of the world’s population has no access to electricity, whilst the most industrialised countries consume much more than their fair share.
The effects of climate change on the poorest communities are exacerbated by massive global energy inequality. If we are to address climate change, one of the principles must be equity and fairness, so that the benefits of energy services – such as light, heat, power and transport – are available for all: north and south, rich and poor. Only in this way can we create true energy security, as well as the conditions for genuine human wellbeing.
The global Energy [R]evolution scenario has a target to achieve energy equity as soon as technically possible. By 2050 the average per capita emission should be between 0.5 and 1 tonne of CO2.
3. Implement clean, renewable solutions and decentralise energy systems
There is no energy shortage. All we need to do is use existing technologies to harness energy effectively and efficiently. Renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are ready, viable and increasingly competitive. Wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies have experienced double digit market growth for the past decade.
Just as climate change is real, so is the renewable energy sector. Sustainable, decentralised energy systems produce fewer carbon emissions, are cheaper and are less dependent on imported fuel. They create more jobs and empower local communities. Decentralised systems are more secure and more efficient.This is what the Energy [R]evolution must aim to create.
To stop the earth’s climate spinning out of control, most of the world’s fossil fuel reserves – coal, oil and gas – must remain in the ground. Our goal is for humans to live within the natural limits of our small planet.
4. Decouple growth from fossil fuel use
Starting in the developed countries, economic growth must be fully decoupled from fossil fuel usage. It is a fallacy to suggest that economic growth must be predicated on their increased combustion.
We need to use the energy we produce much more efficiently, and we need to make the transition to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels quickly in order to enable clean and sustainable growth.
5. Phase out dirty, unsustainable energy
We need to phase out coal and nuclear power. We cannot continue to build coal plants at a time when emissions pose a real and present danger to both ecosystems and people. And we cannot continue to fuel the myriad nuclear threats by pretending nuclear power can in any way help to combat climate change.There is no role for nuclear power in the Energy [R]evolution.
2.2 the “3 step implementation”
In 2009, renewable energy sources accounted for 13% of the world’s primary energy demand. Biomass, which is mostly used for heating, was the main renewable energy source. The share of renewable energy in electricity generation was 18%. About 81% of primary energy supply today still comes from fossil fuels.18
Now is the time to make substantial structural changes in the energy and power sector within the next decade. Many power plants in industrialised countries, such as the USA, Japan and the European Union, are nearing retirement; more than half of all operating power plants are over 20 years old. At the same time developing countries, such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil, are looking to satisfy the growing energy demand created by their expanding economies.
Within this decade, the power sector will decide how new electricity demand will be met, either by fossil and nuclear fuels or by the efficient use of renewable energy.The Energy [R]evolution scenario puts forward a policy and technical model for renewable energy and cogeneration combined with energy efficiency to meet the world’s needs.
Both renewable energy and cogeneration on a large scale and through decentralised, smaller units – have to grow faster than overall global energy demand. Both approaches must replace old generating technologies and deliver the additional energy required in the developing world.
A transition phase is required to build up the necessary infrastructure because it is not possible to switch directly from a large scale fossil and nuclear fuel based energy system to a full renewable energy supply. Whilst remaining firmly committed to the promotion of renewable sources of energy, we appreciate that conventional natural gas, used in appropriately scaled cogeneration plants, is valuable as a transition fuel, and can also drive cost- effective decentralisation of the energy infrastructure. With warmer summers, tri-generation which incorporates heat-fired absorption chillers to deliver cooling capacity in addition to heat and power, will become a valuable means of achieving emissions reductions. The Energy [R]evolution envisages a development pathway which turns the present energy supply structure into a sustainable system. There are three main stages to this.
Step 1: energy efficiency and equity
The Energy [R]evolution makes an ambitious exploitation of the potential for energy efficiency. It focuses on current best practice and technologies that will become available in the future, assuming continuous innovation.The energy savings are fairly equally distributed over the three sectors – industry, transport and domestic/business. Intelligent use, not abstinence, is the basic philosophy.
Step 2: the renewable energy [r]evolution
Decentralised energy and large scale renewables In order to achieve higher fuel efficiencies and reduce distribution losses, the Energy [R]evolution scenario makes extensive use of Decentralised Energy (DE).This term refers to energy generated at or near the point of use.
Step 3: optimised integration – renewables 24/7
A complete transformation of the energy system will be necessary to accommodate the significantly higher shares of renewable energy expected under the Energy [R]evolution scenario. The grid network of cables and sub-stations that brings electricity to our homes and factories was designed for large, centralised generators running at huge loads, providing ‘baseload’ power. Until now, renewable energy has been seen as an additional slice of the energy mix and had had adapt to the grid’s operating conditions. If the Energy [R]evolution scenario is to be realised, this will have to change.
2.3 the new electricity grid
In the future power generators will be smaller and distributed throughout the grid, which is more efficient and avoids energy losses during long distance transmission.There will also be some concentrated supply from large renewable power plants. Examples of the large generators of the future are massive wind farms already being built in Europe’s North Sea and plans for large areas of concentrating solar mirrors to generate energy in Southern Europe.
The challenge ahead will require an innovative power system architecture involving both new technologies and new ways of managing the network to ensure a balance between fluctuations in energy demand and supply.The key elements of this new power system architecture are micro grids, smart grids and an efficient large scale super grid.The three types of system will support and interconnect with each other