Decarbonizing global energy: the route to net zero?

This 17-page report revisits our roadmap for the world to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050, 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.

Offshore wind: installation vessels and time per turbine?

Wind turbine installation vessels are estimated to cost $100-500/kW in the breakdown of a typical offshore wind project’s capex. Total offshore construction time is around 10 days per turbine. Offshore wind installation vessel time per turbine averages around 5 days per turbine. Data from past projects are tabulated in this data-file.


The average offshore wind project comprises 90 turbines. Hence over the entire course of offshore construction, a full turbine is installed every 10-days on average.

However, over 50% of the time is spent on preparations, foundations, cable-laying and commissioning. The average wind turbine installation vessel installs a full turbine every 5-days.

The numbers vary by project. The best installation vessels operating under the best conditions can install an entire turbine upon pre-laid bases/foundations in a single day.

At the other end of the spectrum, installation can take over ten days per turbine, especially amidst bad weather, delays with parts, mechanical issues, and projects that are a long way from ports.

Offshore wind installation vessel time per turbine? Data on the times taken to install an offshore wind turbine are aggregated across 35 offshore wind projects in this data-file. While the data are interesting, there are few correlations to be drawn between simple headline metrics.

Some eagle-eyed readers will have spotted, in the charts above, that some projects appear to have higher WTIV days per turbine than total construction days per turbine, which seems confusing. The reason is that recent large offshore wind projects will tend to have 2-3 installation vessels operating simultaneously. Thus they can achieve 2-3 WTIV-days of work per calendar day. More vessels will mean faster construction. And probably lower total costs. But it will also require booking out more vessels from the total fleet.

Overall, we think that installation vessels and support vessels could be a bottleneck for accelerating offshore wind. Amazingly, some of the largest projects in the history of the industry had 60 – 100 vessels operating at peak construction activity.

For perspective, recent offshore wind projects likely have total installation costs of $2,000-6,000/kW (offshore wind cost data here, breakdown of turbine cost here). Cost is saved by larger turbines. The other large bottleneck is in downstream power electronics for integrating wind with power grids.

Leading companies in offshore wind turbine installation vessels include DEME, MPI, Van Oord, Cadeler, Eneti (Seajacks), and increasingly, private-equity backed vessels gearing up for an expansion of offshore wind, especially in the US.

TSE Patent Assessments: a summary?

New technologies for the energy transition range across renewables, next-gen nuclear (fission and fusion), next-gen materials, EV charging, battery designs, CCS technologies,  electronics, recycling, vehicles, hydrogen technologies and advanced bio-fuels. But which companies and technologies can we de-risk?


One way to appraise new technologies for the energy energy transition is to lock yourself in a room with a stack of patents from publicly available patent databases, read the patents, and then score them all on an apples-to-apples framework.

Our technology assessment framework is derived from 15-years experience evaluating energy technologies, from the best of the best world-changing technologies, to companies that ultimately turned out to have over-promised. The framework includes five areas:

(1) Specific problems. We find it easier to de-risk patents that pinpoint specific problems that have hampered others, and set about to solve these problems.

(2) Specific solutions. We find it easier to de-risk patents that pose specific solutions, whereas it is harder to de-risk technologies that are more vague.

(3) Intelligibility. We find it easier to de-risk patents that explain why their inventions work, often including empirical data and underlying scientific theory.

(4) Focused. We find it easier to de-risk patents that all point towards commercializing a common invention, and different aspects of that invention. Conversely, patenting 10 totally different solutions might suggest that a company has not yet honed in upon a final product.

(5) Manufacturing details. We find it easier to de-risk patents that explain how they plan to manufacture the inventions in question. Sometimes, very specific details can be given here. Otherwise, it may suggest the invention is still at the ‘science stage’.

The purpose of this data-file is to aggregate all of our patent assessments in a single reference file, so different companies’ scores can be compared and contrasted. The average score in our patent assessment framework is 3.4 out of 5.0, although there is wide variability in each category.

In each case, we have tabulated the scores we ascribed each company on our five different screening criteria, metrics on the companies’ size and technical readiness and a short descripton of our conclusion. You can also view all of our individual patent assessments chronologically.

Jetti Resources: copper leaching breakthrough?

Jetti Resources has developed a breakthrough technology to recover copper from low-grade sulfide ores, by leaching with sulphuric acid, thiocarbonyls, ferric iron (III) sulphates and oxidizing bacteria. The patents lock up the technology, presenting some of the most detailed experimental data of any patent library that has crossed our screen. But what are the costs of copper production, what CO2 intensity and what technical challenges remain?


Jetti Resources was founded in 2014, it is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, and employs c50 people. It aims to “unlock, vast stranded copper resources” via a breakthrough technology. This matters as our roadmap to net zero sees global copper demand rising 3x by 2050.

The company has raised $100M via a Series D financing round in October-2022, valuing Jetti at $2.5bn. Its technology is being used in two commercial deployments, including Capstone Copper’s Pinto Valley Mine in Arizona.

The technology extracts copper from low-grade sulfides, which make up 70% of the world’s copper resources, worth $20trn, such as chalcopyrite, the most common copper mineral ore.

However, these challenging ores are currently stranded. The copper cannot be leached out using sulphuric acid and then electrowon; as a passivation layer forms on the surface of sulfide ores. And the financial and environmental costs of transporting these ores to Asian smelters are also high.

We have reviewed Jetti Resources’ technology. Its patent library is concentrated, with two particularly clear patents, containing some of the most detailed experimental data that has crossed our screens in all of our patent reviews (the chart below shows how thiourea, and other reagents, enhances copper recovery). We can partly de-risk the technology based on our patent review. It does seem like a technical breakthrough.

Some variants in the patents also show a complementary benefit combining thiocarbonyls with carbon black, which raises the intriguing possibility of providing an offtake for the carbon black coming out of turquoise hydrogen plants.

There are four major challenges to explore, based on our Jetti Resources technology review. They include thiocarbonyl pricing (and resultant copper pricing), thiocarbonyl quantities needed (i.e., kg of thiourea per kg of copper recovery), environmental credentials and the need for co-reagents. There could be variants of the process that are as expensive and CO2-intensive as conventional copper smelting. Data are tabulated and discussed in the data-file.

Energy costs of energy transition?

Reaching net zero requires building wind, solar, grid infrastructure, energy storage, electric vehicles and capturing CO2. Energy is needed to build all of these things. The total energy costs of energy transition reach 1% of total global primary energy in 2025, 2% in 2030, 4% in 2040 and 6.5% in 2050. In other words, energy transition is materially easier to achieve from a period of energy surplus. You can stress-test numbers in this simple model.


We want to achieve an energy transition, by ramping wind and solar to 25% of the world’s total useful energy by 2050 (note here), building a global fleet of over 2bn efficient electric vehicles, constructing power grid and storage infrastructure, and capturing over 6GTpa of CO2 via various forms of CCS.

This data-file compiles our estimates for each category, quantifying (a) how many units do we want to build? (b) what is the energy cost per unit? (c) by simple multiplication, what are the total energy costs of each category in TWH and as a percent of global primary energy.

However, building all of these things absorbs energy. There are energy intensive materials in a solar plant. There are energy intensive materials in a wind-turbine. And in electric vehicles. Around two-thirds of the energy costs for expanded power grids is embedded in the aluminium of power cabling. Finally, energy storage consumes energy in the form of round-trip efficiency losses, while CCS consumes energy in regenerating amines.

By 2025, around 1,500 TWH of primary energy, or 1.0% of total global primary energy, will be needed specifically to construct these energy transition technologies. The near-term is most heavily weighted to solar, then wind, then electric vehicles.

The numbers grow ever larger as we extrapolate out into the future. The energy transition itself will consume 2% of the world’s primary energy by 2030, 4% by 2040 and 6.5% by 2050.

These are simply enormous numbers. The 2025 number is equivalent to the total primary energy consumption of a country such as Spain or Australia. While the 2050 number is equivalent to two Saudi Arabias worth of oil production.

It is clearly going to be easier to build the important assets and infrastructure needed in the energy transition from a position of energy surplus, and it is going to be more difficult (even, inflationary) if the world is suffering from sustained energy shortages. This is why we think restoring the world’s energy surplus is the most important ESG goal of the 2020s.

The data-file also contains energy balances for each theme in the energy transition. Wind is already in a position of large energy surplus, because wind plants require 50-70% less up-front energy to construct than solar plants (per unit of ultimate generation, e.g., in kWh). The solar chart below is also more finely balanced through the mid-2020s, because solar additions are still accelerating sharply (note here). EV growth is seen accelerating so sharply that building ever more EVs will absorb more energy than they save through the mid-2030s (note here).

The technology that looks most challenged on this roadmap is green hydrogen. Converting useful, rateable electricity into green hydrogen generates no energy savings. There are simply efficiency losses, due to entropy increases, over-voltages at the anode, storage, transport, fuel cells, etc. Our chart above has <0.1% of the world’s useful energy in 2050 coming from green hydrogen. But if the number were 10%, then the total energy requirements of the energy transition would literally double.

The technology that looks least challenged on this roadmap is natural restoration (note here). Nature based solutions may create a 20GTpa CO2 sink with long-term pricing around $50/ton. But planting trees is not an energy intensive activity. There is even an argument that it generates energy, although consuming this energy has varying CO2 credentials.

A key objective for the new energies industry is going to be deploying new technologies that can improve efficiency and lower the energy intensity of energy transition. Hence our own research is also delving into opportunities in energy efficiency.

What are the energy costs of the energy transition? You can stress test numbers in the data-file, flexing total wind and solar installations, total EV deployment, CCS deployment, grid storage, green hydrogen, and the energy intensity factors of each technology.

Nature based solutions: CO2 removals in 2022?

Market for nature based carbon offsets

Is the nascent market for nature-based carbon offsets working? We appraised five projects in 2022, and contributed $7,700 to capture 440 tons of CO2, which is 20x our own CO2 footprint. This 11-page note presents our top five conclusions. Today’s market lacks depth and efficiency. High-quality credits are most bottlenecked. Prices rise further in 2023. A new wave of projects is emerging?

Cable installation vessels: costs and operating parameters?

database of cable installation vessels

This is a database of cable installation vessels for offshore wind and power transmission; tabulating costs (in $M), contract awards (in $/km), capacity (in tons), installation speeds (in meters per hour), power ratings (in MW), crew sizes, positioning systems and leading companies. But there is a paradox in the past decade’s cost data?


The paradox is that the world’s fleet of offshore cable installation vessels have become ever more sophisticated over time, and yet the costs of offshore cable laying do not appear to have risen to reward this build-out?

For example, at the cutting edge, Prysmian’s Leonardo Da Vinci vessel cost around $200M to build, has 21MW of total power, 180 tons of lifting capacity, and thus can lay a staggering 2.1 km of cables per hour, in water depths up to 3,000 meters, with ultra-redundant DP3 positioning. Similarly, Van Oord’s new Calypso vessel will be able to lay two cables at once.

Generally these cutting edge vessels also boast improved environmental performance, with less CO2, NOx, hybridization or readiness to run on biofuels. The details are noted in the data-file, vessel by vessel.

By contrast, many of the cable laying vessels built a decade ago only had 7-8MW of total power on average, 110 tons of lifting capacity, maximum lay rates of 1km of cables per hour, in water depths up to 800m, with DP2 positioning. So the industry has truly transformed its capabilities.

And yet the contract awards that we have aggregated for offshore cable installation have hardly changed. Laying the inter-cabling at an offshore wind project might cost $0.5M/km, offshore interconnectors (such as HVDCs) cost $1-2M/km, and complex projects with erratic seabed terrain cost as much as $3-5M/km.

Is it possible that attempts to accelerate offshore wind and renewables more broadly will pull on the supply chain for cable installation vessels, and rescue what has thus been a relatively challenging industry? If our energy supply-demand numbers are right, there could even be another offshore cycle in the conventional energy industry?

The full database of cable installation vessels covers assets owned by Prysmian, Van Oord, Nexans, Deme, NKT, Jan de Nul, Seaway, Boskalis et al; and contracts whose details have made it into the public domain.

Nature-based CO2 removals: a summary?

This data-file is an overview of nature-based CO2 removal projects that we have been supporting at Thunder Said Energy. Our research ‘scores’ different nature-based projects on a 100-point scale, using criteria to check whether they are real, incremental, measurable, permanent and bio-diverse. The average project supported so far scores 70/100 and sells CO2 offsets at $5-50/ton.


In 2022, we spent $8,000 to support five projects, which have most likely ‘credited’ 480 tons of CO2, for an average cost of $16/ton. Projects span across Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Kenya, Uganda, Indonesia and Madagascar.

The average nature-based reforestation initiative that we supported in 2022 scored 70/100 on our framework for assessing nature-based CO2 removal projects, and was priced at $17/ton of CO2.

Two of the projects scored over 80/100. Whereas three of the projects were given lower scores, due to question marks around whether they were fully incremental, fully measurable, or fully bio-diverse.

Overall we were least concerned about whether the projects were real, as most of them were issuing CO2 offsets that had been certified by Verra or Gold Standard, independently audited and with detailed documentation.

Overall we were most concerned about whether the projects were permanent, in turn a good reason to consider complementary solutions such as CCS and DAC projects?

Statistical distributions are also explored in this data-file, as there are clearly going to be ‘uncertainties’ in natural remediation projects: both implementing the projects over 40-year timeframes and quantifying the CO2 benefits.

The statistical distributions of nature-based CO2 removals are not normally distributed. We estimate our own probability distributions in the data-file. More on CO2 measurement in our allometry research.

A Monte Carlo approach can be used to quantify nature-based CO2 removals across a portfolio. Overall, we are 75% confident that the projects we supported in 2022 have offset over 400 tons of CO2, and 90% confident they have offset over 300 tons of CO2.

You can download this data-file for an overview of nature-based CO2 removal projects we have supported to-date. Or see our nature-based CO2 removals category for full details on the underlying projects.

Electrification: the rings of power?

Electrification in the energy transition

Electrification is the largest, most overlooked, most misunderstood part of the energy transition. Hence this 10-page note aims to explain the upside, simply and clearly. Electricity rises from 40% of total useful energy today to 60% by 2050. Within the next decade, this adds $2trn to the enterprise value of capital goods companies in power grids and power electronics.

CO2 offsets: Pachama’s AI platform?

Pachama CO2 offset review

Pachama is a nature-based technology company, which has raised $79M, to create a portal where buyers can choose “from rigorously vetted forest restoration and conservation projects”, which in turn are tracked using proprietary AI. This data-file is a Pachama CO2 offset review. We have assessed the portfolio, some challenges and our own experiences, via our usual framework for assessing nature-based CO2 removals.


As of November-2022, the majority of projects available on Pachama’s portal are avoided emissions projects. These are excellent conservation projects, accredited by VERRA, protecting vulnerable eco-systems, and achieving some of the highest biodiversity scores of any projects that have crossed our screens.

However, it remains debatable whether these projects can be considered to be “offsetting CO2”. CO2 credits are not being awarded for pulling additional CO2 out of the sky and storing it in a natural eco-system, as per other CO2 removal projects that we have assessed.

Rather, CO2 offsets are being issued relative to a hypothetical scenario where a protected forest is deforested at a rate of 1-2% per year (varies by project) over the next 20-70 years (chart below).

We think that over time, Pachama would like to seed new forests, and more incremental projects on its platform, but for now there is limited depth in the nature-based CO2 market, and most of the certified CO2 offset projects are REDD (conservation) projects.

In one of the largest CO2 offset projects in the Pachama portfolio today, CO2 offsets are issued relative to a scenario whether a carbon-dense, 26-000 year old peatland is drained and thus caused to release c500MT of CO2. Blue carbon eco-systems can store a lot of carbon, over 1,000 tons/hectare, possibly over 2,000 tons/hectare. But 500MT is a truly enormous number. It is equivalent to the direct annual emissions of the entire global fertilizer industry per our CO2 breakdown. This raises some question marks.

It gets a bit philosophical, but in our view, carbon “offsetting” should be about cancelling out the net impacts of emitting +X tons of unavoidable CO2 into the atmosphere by pulling out -X tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it over the long-term. Not by avoiding a further +X tons of emissions. (Morally, you cannot atone for a murder by enumerating the list of people you have not murdered !!).

We want to support conservation of nature, and high-quality organizations in nature-based solutions; and so we allocated $700 to offset 40 tons of CO2 from the Pachama portfolio at the current price of $17.6/ton. However, our overall experience was somewhat disappointing: per the Pachama website, we thought we were buying from “Pachama’s global portfolio of high-quality forest projects” (screenshot above). But after making the purchase, all of our purchase ended up allocated to the single, large peat conservation project, described above.

Further details on our Pachama CO2 offset review are in the data-file. We have also appraised other CO2 removal projects using the same framework.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.

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We may share Employee Information with third parties who provide outsourced human resource functions. Those third parties will be required to protect Employee Information.

11. EU General Data Protection Regulation

The Thunder Said Energy Policy for the Processing of Data Governed by GDPR addresses our commitment to the processing of personal data under the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679.

If you are located in the European Economic Area (“EEA”) or Switzerland, you have the rights to request the following:

To request confirmation of whether we process personal data relating to you
To request confirmation of what personal data we process relating to you
To request that we rectify or update any personal data relating to you that is inaccurate, incomplete or outdated.
To request that we erase your personal data ,or that we no longer have your consent to process your personal data
To request that we restrict the use of your personal data
You may contact us at [email protected] to exercise any of these rights described above. You also have the right to lodge a complaint with your country’s data protection supervisory authority.

12. Other Contractual Relationships

If you enter into a separate contractual relationship us, which requires collecting, using, or sharing information about you in a different manner than described in this Privacy Policy, the terms of that agreement will apply.

13. Other Websites

This Privacy Policy does not apply to sites or services offered by other companies or third parties, that may be displayed as content or linked on our website.

14. Contact Information

If you have any questions or concerns related to this Privacy Policy, please contact the us at [email protected]

Updated 24th January 2020.

Thunder Said Energy Policy for the Processing of Data Governed by GDPR

Thunder Said Energy may collect, process or handle Personal Data relating to its customers or prospective customers (“customers”) in the European Economic Area (“Personal Data”).

Thunder Said Energy’s relationship with its customers is governed by our terms of use (above), privacy policy (above), and potentially other commercial agreements. It is also legally bound under the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (“GDPR”) in its collection, uses, and processes around Personal Data.

This Policy describes Thunder Said Energy’s commitment to the processing of Personal Data under the GDPR.

Please contact [email protected] if you would like an executed version of this Policy, or for answers to any GDPR queries arising from thie policy.

1. Appropriate Technical and Organizational Measures. When Thunder Said Energy processes Personal Data on behalf of a customer, appropriate technical and organizational measures satisfy the requirements of GDPR, to ensure the security of Personal Data is appropriate to the level of risk, and to help ensure protection of the rights of the data subject.

2. Subprocessing. Thunder Said Energy does not currently work with any subprocessors. If we were to do so in the future, subprocessors would be required to provide at least the same level of protection as is described in this Policy. Thunder Said Energy would remain liable to its customers for any actions by its subprocessors that impact any rights guaranteed under the GDPR.

3. Written Instructions. Thunder Said Energy only processes Personal Data in accordance with the terms set out in this Policy, its Privacy Policy (above) and other written terms agreed with its subscribing customer. These documents set out the subject-matter, duration, nature, purpose, types of Personal Data, categories, obligations and rights relating to such Personal Data.

4. Transfers to non-EEA Countries. Most of the Personal Data collected by Thunder Said Energy will be collected via its US-website. Where Personal Data are disclosd Thunder Said employees in the EEA, they may be transferred to Thunder Said Energy’s offices and employees. Every effort will be made to ensure the transfer is fully secure. Personal data is not expected to be transmitted to other destinations, beyond the United States, UK and EEA.

5. Confidentiality. Thunder Said Energy requires that its employees process Personal Data under appropriate obligations of confidentiality.

6. Cooperation Concerning Data Subjects. Thunder Said Energy cooperates with reasonable requests of its customers (at the customer’s reasonable expense) to help them fulfill their obligations under GDPR to respond to requests by data subjects to access, modify, rectify, or remove their Personal Data.

7. Cooperation Concerning Customer Documentation. Thunder Said Energy cooperates with the reasonable requests of its customers to provide information necessary to demonstrate compliance with this Policy and the GDPR, or to conduct audits of the Personal Data it holds that was received from the customer. Audits may only occur once per calendar year, and during normal business hours. Audits will only occur after reasonable notice (not less than 30 business days). Audits will be conducted by customer or an appropriate independent auditor appointed (not by a competitor). Audits may not have any adverse impact on Thunder Said Energy’s normal business operations. Auditors shall not have access to any proprietary or third party information or data. Any records, data or information accessed by the Company and/or its representatives in the performance of any such audit will be deemed to be the confidential information of Thunder Said Energy, as applicable, and may be used for no other reason than to assess compliance with the terms of this Policy. Thunder Said Energy shall be entitled to charge the Customer USD500 per hour for any hours of its employees’ time that is taken up in the audit.

8. Personal Data Breach. In the event of a Personal Data breach under GDPR, Thunder Said Energy will notify its applicable customers without undue delay after becoming aware of the breach. Such notification(s) may be delivered to an email address provided by Customer or by direct communication (for example, by phone call or in-person). The customer is responsible for ensuring any email address provided by them is current and valid. Thunder Said Energy will take reasonable steps to provide information reasonably required.

9. Deletion of Data. Thunder Said Energy will delete or return all Personal Data to a customer, following the termination of the customer’s relationship, unless it is required to retain it by applicable laws and compliance policies. Thunder Said Energy reserves the right to charge a reasonable fee to comply with any customer’s request to return Personal Data.

10. Governing Law. This Policy shall be governed by the governing law (and subject to the jurisdiction(s)) of the relevant Agreement and otherwise subject to the limitations and remedies expressly set out in the Agreement.
If you have any queries about this Policy please contact [email protected]
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