Decarbonizing global energy: the route to net zero?

This 17-page report revisits our roadmap to ‘net zero’, after integrating over 1,000 pieces of research from 2019 through 2022. Our updated roadmap includes large upgrades for renewables and energy efficiency; less reliance on new energies breakthroughs; but most of all, simple, pragmatic progress is needed as bottlenecks and shortages loom.

At the end of each year, we look back upon all of our research, to update our roadmap to net zero. This is the fourth year we have undertaken this exercise. It is fascinating how the numbers have continually evolved in 2022 versus 2021 and 2020.

Our baseline is 80GTpa of possible emissions in 2050, which would be emitted in 2050 if the world’s population and energy demand scaled up from today’s CO2 baseline of 50GTpa without action (pages 2-3).

Across 1,000 pieces of research, we have mapped technologies that can decarbonize this 2050 baseline 2.5x over. That is up to 200GTpa of CO2 abatement, with costs ranging from $0/ton to $1,000/ton (cost curves and big-picture numbers on pages 4-6).

Commodity markets? The resultant balance of wind, solar, nuclear, oil, gas and coal is bridged on page 7 (in underlying units, and common-currency TWH), and the investment needed to deliver the transition is quantified on page 8 (in $bn pa by category).

What has changed? An attribution from 2020 -> 2021 -> 2022. Over time, our roadmap has relied less and less on totally novel technologies, and gravitated further towards the challenges of building real technologies, which exist today, but must simply scale up (Fig 13 on page 10 is a favorite chart!). The biggest change is that the world is now in an era of pervasive shortages, meaning slower progress, re-inflation, higher risking (pages 9-10).

Our full roadmap to net zero is summarized on pages 11-17. The goal here is not to re-write War and Peace, by copying out all of the details from 1,000 items of research. It is to draw out the crucial points and best opportunities for busy decision-makers.

Moving Heaven and Earth to ramp up renewables is covered on pages 12-13. The importance of displacing high-carbon coal with 50% lower-carbon gas is on page 14. Our ‘top ten’ opportunities in energy efficiency are summarized (with links) on page 15. A more concentrated and heavily risked outlook for CCS is on page 16. Finally, the vast potential for nature-based carbon removals is presented and bridge on page 17.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2019-2023.