In 2050, carbon emissions have been falling steadily for
many years. Solar power is the world’s largest source of electricity. Wind is second. With hydropower coming in third. A cleaner energy system rules our new world, and an old acquaintance has emerged in a new guise. For reaching zero-emissions, green hydrogen has done wonders in the industrial and heavy transport sectors.
That, at least, is the picture painted by the Low Emissions Scenario and Mari Viddal, one of Statkraft’s leading experts on tomorrow’s energy systems.
Global leader of energy analysis at Statkraft
– All the research indicates that the next ten years will be critical,” she says. “We’re in the middle of a global transition in the energy sector, which will see us switch from fossil to renewable energy
in a very short time. The world has never done anything like this before. We must move fast, and we are running out of time.
Time has already caught up with us. Just look at last year’s record high temperatures, forest fires and disastrous floods. The Earth is already 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in the pre-industrial age, and the temperature curve is getting steeper.
Do you think that a 1.1-degree increase doesn’t sound like much? It is a lot. Even decimals can have a huge impact.
Figures published by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) show that extreme heatwaves will happen more frequently with 2 degrees of global warming.
In the Low Emissions Scenario, all this is factored in to produce a wide-ranging analysis of the energy market in the years up until 2050. The scenario balances optimism with realism.
“The Low Emissions Scenario shows that we can succeed in sticking to a 2-degree pathway, but we’ll miss the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree target for global warming. To achieve the 1.5-degree target, we need more of everything and everything will have to happen much faster” says Viddal.
To succeed in making this rapid energy transition, we are particularly dependent on one thing: making good choices. The Low Emissions Scenario is one of the elements Statkraft uses to plan for the future.
“The Low Emissions Scenario helps us to understand how the energy markets are changing, which enables us to make better decisions,” says Viddal.
Understanding the energy markets also means knowing the amount of emissions involved.
The world’s production and consumption of energy currently generates around three-quarters of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
– Mari Viddal
– At Statkraft, the decisions we make have a future outlook – 30 years or more. The investments we make today lock in solutions for decades to come, says Viddal
The Low Emissions Scenario shows how a new energy
future can grow if good decisions are made.
You are now at the core of the story about our future.
So let’s take a look at our new world in the run up to 2050.
Solar power will become the world’s largest source of electricity as early as 2035.
In the run up to 2050, solar power production will grow by 12 per cent per year.
Photovoltaic (solar) cells will become much cheaper and more advanced.
Solar panels will be able to produce electricity from both sides – and tracking will enable the panels to follow the movement of the sun for maximum effect.
Both their cost and their climate impact will make solar and wind power the winners in the global energy competition.
Since 2012, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector has increased by almost 60 per cent. Worldwide, solar energy-related jobs have almost trebled.
The wind turbines will grow and produce much more energy to a lower cost. The potential for lager turbines increases with more offshore production.
Onshore wind farms are the least expensive source of
electricity in many parts of the world.
Wind power complements solar power extremely well – in Europe, for example, there is a lot of wind in the winter when the sunlight hours reduce.
The world’s largest renewable source of electricity in 2021 will be the third largest in 2050.
Hydropower production will nevertheless grow by 1.5 per cent per year up to 2050.
Hydropower will therefore overtake coal and gas-generated electricity in 2040.
Hydropower is extremely flexible when it comes to generating electricity, compensating for periods with lack of wind or sunshine.
Zero-emission, green hydrogen will meet 6 per cent of the world’s energy needs in 2050.
Hydrogen will play an increasing role in new areas, where the supply of electricity can be challenging – like in the steel industry and long-haul transport.
The number of heavy goods vehicles running on green hydrogen is expected to rise sharply in the next 10–20 years.
Green hydrogen will play a larger role in the steel and ammonia industries.
Green hydrogen can be stored and help to balance the power grid, by producing when there is a lot of sun and wind.
The heavyweights must pull the load
In the new energy world of 2050, 80 per cent of electricity production will be renewable. And we will be able to produce more than twice the electricity we do today.
This entire increase, and much more, will come in the form of renewable power.
“In 2050, we envisage an energy system with much cleaner emissions and with much more renewable power. The solutions exist, and they are largely cheaper than the fossil alternatives. We are facing a difficult transition, and there is a long way to go before we get there,” says Viddal. “What we see at the other end of the tunnel is much more efficient and better for society.”
And in the middle of the tunnel, there is a huge sign saying “No Speed Limit”.
“Everything must happen at a faster pace if we are to reach our goals,” says Viddal.
Who actually decides the speed? If the future is to be renewable, we all have a responsibility. But in the grand scheme of things – in the global green transition – the heavyweights must pull the load. And they are well on their way. The EU has established
its European Green Deal, the USA has rejoined the Paris Agreement and China has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060.
“The climate crisis cannot be solved without the major world economies joining in. Together, China, the USA and the EU account for over 50 per cent of global carbon emissions. When the big players set ambitious goals, the global momentum is strengthened and other countries will find it easier to put their own shoulders to the wheel,” explains Viddal.
And when more countries push forward, things move even faster.
“Today’s climate targets are not enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. So it’s important to keep gradually raising the bar on our ambitions,” says Mari Viddal, before concluding. “We cannot solve the climate crisis without solving the energy problem. That means we must fundamentally change the way we produce and consume energy.”