10 May 19 Eddie's Blog Ireland

Decarbonised Energy Demand

The Paris Accord at COP 21 managed to achieve what had failed at Kyoto and Copenhagen and that was to get the nations of the world to commit to decarbonising their energy systems. The macro aim was to keep the rise of atmospheric temperature to below 2 degree celsius.

SuperNode’s 2050 Demand Analysis
In SuperNode, we had a detailed look at what this would mean in practical terms. We emerged with the following proposition: make electricity the dominant form of energy, and generate all electricity from renewable sources. Early on in our study we realised that we already had the technologies to generate the electricity, i.e. wind and solar, in addition to, mainly existing, hydro, nuclear and some biomass.

Trends in electricity generation were examined. It was quickly realised that there were 2 generic types of generation.

  • Private generation from rooftop solar, and
  • Public generation.

Private generation depends on the number of roofs that could have solar panels retrofitted, or had their roofs constructed from photo active tiles. It was estimated that by 2050, most European houses and many commercial buildings would have either of these systems fitted. It was estimated that 128.2 million roofs would be so fitted, and that electricity generated from this source, mainly for consumption on the premises would amount to 675 terawatt hours (TWh) per year.

Conditioning the Built Environment
Decarbonisation means not only replacing existing fossil fuel generation (50% currently) but also having all heating and transport energy requirements supplied by electricity made from renewable sources. Heating uses a large proportion of both local and imported fossil fuels. The technology of electric heating and cooling is quite mature at this stage. It would mean that in the order of 2659 TWh/yr would be needed to meet the electrical demand arising from supplying this energy electrically by 2050.

Transport can be divided into private cars commercial goods vehicles. All major motor car manufacturers and many new entrants are investing in all-electric vehicles currently. Issues such as range, weight, public charging, lack of noise at low speed, are all being addressed. It is anticipated that the electric car will usher in the era of self driving shortly. Although lithium ion batteries are the norm at the moment, they are heavy, are very reliant on copper supplies and relatively expensive. It is anticipated that battery technology will come down in price, and weight with the effluxion of time. By then it is anticipated that heavy goods vehicles will change from petrol and diesel to battery driven. Certainly by 2050 it is a safe bet that transport will have made the complete transition in the developed world with the rest following on soon thereafter. In Europe it is estimated that private cars will consume 522 TWh/yr, with commercial vehicles consuming 863 TWh/yr.

Energy efficiency is taken into account in this calculation, as is economic growth which is assumed to average 1% per annum.

The effect of this electrification of European energy will mean that the quantity of generation will go from a current 3,500 TWh/yr to circa 7,766 TWh/yr.