Global CO2 emissions are around 50GTpa on a fully loaded basis in 2021. Without intervention, it is likely that global CO2 emissions would surpass 80GTpa by 2050. Our decarbonization research covers opportunities to achieve an energy transition and abate CO2.
Generally, we label data-files under the ‘decarbonization’ category when they are directly about decarbonization opportunities, and when they do not fit squarely into other research categories on our website, such as wind, solar, coal-to-gas, efficiency technologies, CCS or nature-based CO2 removals.
Examples of decarbonization research include our roadmap to net zero, screens tracking the decarbonization targets of companies, or screens of companies’ purchases of nature-based CO2 removal credits.
Other examples cover the relative CO2 savings (aka CO2 abatement) that might be achieved by deploying other technologies in the energy transition. For example, an EV has 70% lower CO2 emissions than an ICE over its entire operating life-cycle.
Some of the top public companies in energy transition are aggregated in this data-file, looking across over 1,000 items of research into the energy transition published to date by Thunder Said Energy.
The data file should be useful for subscription clients of Thunder Said Energy, if you are looking for a helpful summary of all of our research to-date, how it reflects upon public companies, and links to explore those companies in more detail, across our other research.
Specifically, the file allows you to filter different companies according to (a) listing country (b) size — i,e., small-cap, mid-cap, large-cap, mega-cap (c) Sector — e.g., energy, materials, capital goods, OEMs (d) TSE research — and whether the work we had done made us incrementally more optimistic, or cautious, on this company’s role generating economic returns while advancing the energy transition.
A back-up tab then reviews all of our research to date, going back to 2019, and how we think that specific research conclusion might impact upon specific companies. This exercise is not entirely perfect, due to the large number of themes, criss-crossing a large number of companies, at a large number of different points in time. Hence the observations in this data-file should not be interpreted as investment recommendations.
The screen is updated monthly. At the latest update, in January-2023, it contains 324 differentiated views on 162 top public companies in energy transition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Energy is the glue of our universe. Literally everything is at some level an energy flow – from viewing this text, to the outcomes of wars, to matter itself – which can all be expressed in Joules and kWh. Hence this 16-page overview is a useful reference, to translate from any energy units to any others; for comparisons; and to understand the units in energy transition.
This database aims to calculate the Scope 1, 2, 3 and Scope 4 emissions of different energy sources, fuels and decarbonization investments, on a bottom up basis. The numbers vary vastly, from -1.25 kg/kWh to +1.25 kg/kWh, and offer a more constructive view for funding decarbonization initiatives.
Specifically, we take examples in coal, oil, gas, biofuels, wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, CCUS, EVs, heat pumps and forestry. Next we calculate the Scope 1&2 CO2 emissions involved in producing the energy product. Then we calculate the Scope 3 CO2 emissions involved in using the product. Finally, we deduct the Scope 4 CO2 emissions that are avoided via using this energy product versus the most likely counterfactual.
For example, generating 1 MWH of power from coal emits 1.15 tons of CO2. Generating that same 1 MWH of power from natural gas emits 0.45 tons of CO2, resulting in a net saving of 0.7 tons of CO2. Thus $1bn invested in natural gas power plants, debatably, will save over 100MT of total CO2 over the lifetime of the plant. This is actually more than the 40MT of total lifetime CO2 that will be saved by investing $1bn into wind or solar.
Looking at the numbers in these terms is instructive, as it will promote an ‘all of the above’ approach to decarbonizing global energy.
Decision-makers may wish to use numbers in the data-file to illustrate the Scope 1-4 CO2 associated with investment decisions and production. In many cases, there is a good argument that energy investments will offer net CO2 reductions on a Scope 1-4 basis.
The file calculates full Scope 1 – Scope 4 emissions of different energy sources, in kg/boe, kg/kWh, tons/ton, tons/$bn and TWH/$bn metrics for all the different energy products. We are also happy to help TSE subscription clients explore bespoke cuts of the data. We have also published back-up research on the philosophy of CO2 accounting.
We tabulated data from 138 elections over 60 years in 7 countries. When food and energy prices spike, there is a 75% chance of government change. Revolutions can sometimes be triggered by food-energy shortages too. Hence this 14-page note evaluates whether major policy changes are coming?
This 15-page note reflects on the last 15-years of energy, the world and our own experiences. Mega-trends do not move in straight lines. The world has often changed direction, getting waylaid by unexpected crises. Thus we wonder if energy transition goals, policies, and solutions may shift?
This data-file is an Excel “visualizer” for some of the key headline metrics around renewables’ share of global energy: such as total global energy use, electricity generation by source, wind penetration and solar penetration; broken down country-by-country, and showing how these metrics have changed over time, in an easy-to-compare visual format.
Global useful energy consumption stood at 71,000 TWH in 2021, rising at 2.5% per year in the past decade. It will most likely continue rising to over 100,000 TWH pa by 2050 (data here).
Electricity comprises 40% of total useful energy, with 28,000 TWH generated in 2021, and the remainder is for heat, motion, materials.
Electricity’s 40% share (as a percent of total useful energy) has changed remarkably little over the past decade, in our assessment, although electricity did increase from 15% to 17% of total primary energy.
Wind and solar now comprise 10% of all global electricity, of which two-thirds is wind, one-third is solar; making up 13.5% of OECD electricity and 8% of non-OECD.
Wind and solar’s 10% share is up from 2.3% a decade ago. This 7.7% increase has displaced coal (41% to 36%), but more disappointingly for CO2 intensity, also nuclear (12% to 10%) and hydro (16% to 15%), while natural gas remains at 22-23%.
The “renewables frontier” is that Spain, Portugal and Ireland are generating 30% of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, followed by the UK, Germany and California at 25-30%. (Denmark has generated 50-60% from wind/solar since 2017, but this high penetration is achieved by exporting power).
Slow-downs. The ramp to 20-25% occurred more quickly in some of these countries, while the subsequent ramp to 25-30% sometimes (not always) occurred more slowly, and this may be the time that storage and demand-shifting start becoming more important.
Intermittency markets? Most countries in our screen are on course to reach 30% wind and solar penetrations within 5-10 years, again suggesting the dawn of demand-shifting, storage and intermittency solutions in this timeframe.
The cleanest grids in the world, however, belong to Norway (91% hydro, 8% wind) and Sweden (42% hydro, 31% nuclear, 16% wind), where nuclear and hydro can also buffer renewables (note here).
China, India and Indonesia together comprise c40% of global electricity and retain over c60% coal in their power mixes.
Despite rising renewables, coal-fired electricity, gas-fired electricity, total oil, coal and gas use are all making new highs in 2021-22. Our overview of China’s coal trajectory is here.
The source for this visualizer into renewables’ share of global energy is the exceptionally useful and thorough data provided in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy (linked here). The analysis, data-scrubbing and visualizations are our own.
To read our recent commentary on renewables share of global energy, please see our article here.
Savannas are an open mix of trees, brush and grasses. They comprise up to 20% of the world’s land, 30% of its annual CO2 fixation, and we estimate their active management could abate 1GTpa of CO2 at low cost. This 17-page research note was inspired by exploring some wild savannas and thus draws on photos, observation, anecdotes, technical papers.
This model aims to calculate global wind and solar capacity additions. How many GW of new capacity would be needed for renewables to reach c25% of the global energy mix by 2050, up from 4% in 2021? In total energy terms, this means a 10x scale up, to 30,000 TWH of useful wind+solar energy in 2050. Gross global wind and solar capacity additions will surpass +1,000 GW by 2040.
Total net solar capacity growth is seen accelerating, and ultimately peaking at 500 GWe in 2040. This is a net number, as 650 GWe of new solar installations must counter-act 150GWe of retirements of past installations. In turn, adding 650 GWe of new solar installations, on an AC-basis, likely requires around 780 GWe of new solar panels on a gross, DC-basis. These forecasts are informed by our solar research.
Total new wind capacity growth is seen accelerating, and ultimately peaking at 250GWe in 2040. Again, this is a net number, as 330GWe of new wind installations must counter-act 80GWe of retirements of past installations. These forecasts are informed by our wind research.
The data-file also contains breakdowns across four regions (US, Europe, China and ‘rest of world’), a tracker of past growth forecast revisions (which have been revised up by 10x for solar and 3x for wind over the past decade), projections of future load factors, and data on the lifetime of solar assets from technical papers.
Bottlenecks that need to be overcome to reach these incredible growth numbers are not considered in the file, but in our other research, into metals, materials and power grids.
We would also like to highlight that our projections are simply informed guesses. Everyone is guessing at global wind and solar capacity additions. But we hope it is at least useful to have an auditable data-file of our own guesses.
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