• Bloomberg New Energy Finance blog describes current challenges to low-carbon pathway and some reasons to be optimistic

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

A long blog post by Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance has given another perspective on a low-carbon energy future, written in the context of the idea of a ‘Three-Third World’, where ”by 2040 one third of global electricity will be generated from wind and solar; one third of vehicles on the road will be electric; and the world’s economy will produce one third more GDP from every unit of energy.” The article is clear-headed about the current challenges facing the expansion of renewable energies – the difficulty in providing enormous peak levels of heating demand in cold countries where domestic heating equipment is non-electric, the limited amount of battery storage expected to be installed even by 2030 (enough for only 7.5 minutes of global electricity demand), the “alarming” costs to enable very high levels (~60%) of renewables in a grid chief amongst them. It is more optimistic, but perhaps less clear-headed, about future possibilities for working towards climate goals: the continuing fall in prices for wind, solar, and battery storage, the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of new buildings (though this is tempered by the difficulty in retrofitting existing buildings), the potential for generating heating through biomass and biogas, the expected rise in light electric vehicles, and the emergence of new technologies – for instance small nuclear and the Allam cycle. It also points to needs such as the development of carbon capture and storage, for carbon prices that will give appreciable incentives. Furthermore, it sees a significant role for hydrogen as a means of energy storage for rapid energy release during peaks, but questions the wisdom of deploying more nuclear power plants of the current variety due to their cost. While it is critical of the use of hydrogen for transport, it offers no alternative for heavy transport – trucking, shipping and aviation. Overall, the article contains a range of interesting insights and is well worth reading.