The International Energy Agency’s latest report has certainly got the energy sector talking. The Net Zero 2050 Roadmap has made bold statements and is calling for immediate and drastic action.
In a world focused on COVID-19 recovery, and frustrated by red tape and sluggish policy frameworks, it seems an almost insurmountable task. Or is it? Take a look at what key industry players are saying in response to the report.
Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, describes the opportunity for net zero emissions by 2050 as “narrow but still achievable” and says the roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed to ensure it is not lost. Said Birol: “The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” he says.
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Jonathan Maxwell, CEO of Sustainable Development Capital LLP, investor in energy efficiency said: “We welcome the IEA’s roadmap to net zero which names energy efficiency as a key pillar in tackling climate change and achieving net-zero by 2050.
“Due to inefficiencies in generation and distribution most of the energy provided to buildings, which use 40% of the world’s energy, can be lost before it reaches its end use. Generating clean energy is only one side of the coin, we must also reduce the energy we waste and use what we produce more efficiently. After all, the cleanest energy is always the energy we don’t use.”
The report has stated that energy groups must stop new oil and gas projects to reach net zero by 2050. Additionally, an unprecedented jump in spending on low carbon technologies would also be required — around $5 trillion in energy investments per year by 2030, up from around $2 trillion today.
Severine Trouillet, global affairs director at 3D design and engineering software company, Dassault Systèmes, responded: “Renewable and clean energy sources will play a pivotal role in helping the UK to hit its ambitious carbon goals, so it is vital that energy groups are pivoting towards these.
“Despite this, recent Dassault Systemes’ research finds that many energy companies are taking a lukewarm approach to their energy mix: by 2030, British energy companies expect to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and clean fuel [4% and 1.5% respectively] and increase their investment into new energy sources (15%). This is simply not enough and must be accelerated.”
Trouillet adds: “To do so, the industry not only needs the right strategy, business and operating models, but also technology to underpin these initiatives. Virtual technology is seen by many energy businesses as key to helping the sector transition to a sustainable future. 67% are currently using virtual twins to reduce waste and carbon emissions; while two in three (65%) are using them to collaborate more effectively in a digital world.
“By removing the need for physical prototypes, virtual twins enable companies to reduce their waste and carbon emissions. This provides companies with more effective methods to improve the lifecycle of their products and will be paramount to helping the industry reach its sustainability goals.”
Another aspect of the report was the IEA’s statement that the ban on gas boilers should be enforced by 2025. Co-Founder of Heat Wayv, Paul Atherton believes expectations must be realistic as simple replacements are still a few years away and by banning too soon, we could leave people a lot worse off financially and with an ineffective heating system.
Said Atherton: “It is great to see The International Energy Agency (IEA) championing the ban of gas boilers, but a total ban by 2025 is going to leave a lot of people very cold.
“The perception is that heat pumps are currently the only ‘off the shelf’ replacement option available and they are far too expensive to buy and will further require a complete heating system rip and replace, putting this option completely out of reach for the vast majority of households.
“Other technologies such as microwave boilers are on their way for homeowners, but a total replacement programme to meet the demands of new build homes, social housing tenants will start in 2024 and the general household retrofit sector isn’t likely until 2027 at the very earliest.
“The IEA and UK Government need to start working with innovative space and hot water heating technology providers in earnest to assess the scale of the market before announcing deadlines as any goal is only going to be possible by working together.”
Philippe Delorme, executive vice-president, energy management at Schneider Electric contends that decarbonising buildings is critical and there is no time to wait for the silver bullet solution. “It is great to see today’s International Energy Agency net-zero roadmap focussing on decarbonising buildings.
“Whilst we support the removal of fossil fuel boilers, there is no time to wait for the silver bullet solution. Choosing proven, safe technologies such as electric heat pumps that are already widely available can be powered by 100% renewable energy sources and deployed today are the best (and only realistic) choice for decarbonising domestic heating systems. As nations around the globe commit to increasingly aggressive net zero timelines, decisions need to be made.
“It is time to accept that electricity is the right choice to decarbonise domestic heat, and the only energy vector that can deliver it within the time we have left. We are not on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Delaying the adoption of technologies that could begin to have a significant impact on our global emissions today will not make the task at hand any easier or any less expensive.
“Accelerating the transition to electric heat in homes will have a significant impact on emissions, both now and in the future when we will have more abundant renewable energy. Acting quickly in areas where we can, also has the potential to help buy us the time needed to focus innovation and development on other areas (such as long-distance transportation and heavy industry) that will require alternative fuel sources and technologies to decarbonise.”