Guide Liberating Energy from Carbon: Introduction to Decarbonization

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Nuclear energy is considered an important carbon mitigation option; despite the recent Fukushima accident, the majority of countries with nuclear power remain committed to its use. Renewables are no longer regarded immature technology; while the cost of some renewables has dropped significantly over the last decades e.

There are a number of daunting technical and economic challenges and pitfalls associated with the expansion of the carbon-neutral energy sources in the energy market.

Alle Bücher der Reihe Lecture Notes in Energy

This chapter analyzes the latest scientific, technological, and commercial developments in the area of carbon-neutral energy sources and fuels, as well as their carbon mitigation potential and outlook in the light of current technological trends. The main objective of carbon capture and storage CCS is to prevent CO 2 from entering the atmosphere by capturing CO 2 from large industrial sources and securely storing it in various carbon sinks. CCS is considered a critical component of the portfolio of carbon mitigation solutions, because global economy heavily relies and will continue to rely on fossil fuels in the foreseeable future.

Currently, there are close to active and planned CCS-related projects around the world—an indication of a growing commitment to this technological option. The major challenges facing the large-scale CCS deployment worldwide relate to a very high financial barrier and limited economic stimuli or regulatory drivers to encourage investments in the technology.

This chapter highlights scientific and engineering progress in all three major stages of the CCS chain, CO 2 capture, transport, and storage, and the current status of existing and planned commercial CCS projects. Technological, economic, environmental, and societal aspects of the large-scale CCS deployment and its prospects as a major carbon abatement policy are analyzed in this chapter. Switching from high-carbon to low- and zero-carbon energy sources and fuels is considered Holy Grail of the decarbonization policy.

The evolutionary model of the substitution of primary energy sources predicts that methane followed by hydrogen will take over the energy market during the current century. The interplay of three energy systems based on methane, electricity, and hydrogen dubbed Decarbonization Triangle can greatly facilitate and expand the decarbonization of global economy. Many challenges hindering the expansion of intermittent renewable energy sources solar and wind could potentially be addressed by means of interconnected electricity, methane, and hydrogen grids that form a large integrated low-carbon energy network.

Due to the complimentary and synergistic nature of the basic elements of the networks, in combination, they can provide more energy services per unit of primary energy with associated economic and environmental benefits. The main strategies and pathways to transitioning to low-to-zero carbon energy systems and the prerequisites for building Methane and Hydrogen Economies are analyzed in this chapter.

Carbon capture and utilization CCU is an attractive carbon abatement strategy because of its potential for not only preventing CO 2 emissions to the atmosphere but also converting CO 2 to value-added products: a win—win solution. This approach can potentially make the carbon capture process more profitable and substantially reduce the investment needs for a rather expensive CO 2 storage infrastructure. Over the last few years, interest in CCU has grown significantly, and many innovative technological approaches to the industrial CO 2 utilization are under development, such as CO 2 conversion to construction materials, plastics, fertilizers, fuels, etc.

At the same time, the analysis of the CO 2 utilization market shows that all existing industrial CO 2 applications consume relatively small quantities of CO 2 , thus for the CCU to present a practical interest as a sink for anthropogenic CO 2 emissions, the markets for the CO 2 -derived products would need to be increased by orders of magnitude.

Livermore, M.

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Maehlum, M. Best Energy Conservation Techniques. Why is Energy Conservation Important? Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice. Muradov, N. Liberating energy from carbon: Introduction to decarbonization. Non-renewable energy. Taylor, L. Roberts, T. Rydge, J. Implementing Effective Carbon Pricing. Stutz, B. Using these types of elemental analyses, we can estimate the total amount of carbon contained in a given supply of an indi- vidual fuel or a mix of fuels and compare this amount to energy consumed or associated economic output. Decarbonization can then be expressed as a product of two factors: 1J car- bon emissions per unit of energy consumption; and 2 energy requirements per unit of value added, which is often called energy intensity.

Available data allow us to assess with reasonable confidence the trend for each of these factors since the nineteenth century for major energy-consuming regions and countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and thus for the world as a whole as well. As Figure 2 shows, the ratio of carbon emissions per unit of primary energy consumed globally has fallen by about 0.

The ratio has decreased because high-carbon fuels, such as wood and coal, have been continuously replaced by those with lower carbon content, such as gas, and also in recent decades by nuclear energy from uranium and hydropower, which contain no carbon. In some of the rapidly industrializing countries, such as China or Nigeria, commercial en- ergy intensity is still increasing.

Because commercial energy replaces traditional energy forms not sold in the markets whose transactions find their way into national statistical data, total energy intensity may diminish while commercial energy intensity increases. The present energy intensity of Thailand resembles the situation in the United States in the late s. The energy intensity of India and its present improvement rates are similar to those of the United States about a century ago. Combining the two factors of carbon intensity and energy intensity Figure.

For example, though Japan and France have both achieved high degrees of decarbonization, they have followed disparate routes. At the global level, the long-term overall reduction in carbon intensity per unit of value from both factors totals about 1. The major determinants of energy-related carbon emissions can be repre- sented as multiplicative factors in a simple equation. Placing carbon emissions on one side, on the other we have population growth, per capita value added, energy consumption per unit of value added, and carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed Yamaji et al. As we have seen, the last two terms in this equation are decreasing globally.

The world's global population is currently increasing at a rate of about 1. The longer-term population growth rate since has been about 1 percent per year. Most population experts predict at least another dou- bling during the next century see United Nations, , and Vu, ; see also Kates, this volume. Economic activity has been increasing in excess of global. In recent decades global economic growth, stirred by both population and productivity gains, has proceeded at about 3 percent per year. Subtracting 1.


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A continuation would imply a doubling of emissions in about forty years. Fearing such an increase, we must examine in detail the differing paths to decarbonization to see what the limits of the process might be.

References | Climate Change Mitigation

These countries represent diverse economic and energy systems and life-styles as well as a significant share of the world's energy use. The United States has one of the highest energy intensities of all the industrial- ized countries, and the highest per capita energy consumption in the world. France and Japan have among the lowest energy intensities in the world, but for different reasons, as we shall discuss. China and India are rapidly developing and still replacing traditional energy sources with commercial ones, and thus they exhibit very high energy and carbon intensities.

Together, the five countries account for about 45 percent of global primary energy consumption and more than 40 percent of energy-related carbon emissions. To determine more precisely the various causes and determinants of the decreasing carbon intensity of energy, we disaggregate the energy system into its three major constituents: primary energy consumption, energy conversion, and final energy consumption. Primary energy consumption embraces the require- ment for original resources such as coal, crude oil, and uranium.

Final energy refers to the gasoline pumped into a car's fuel tank, the electricity for powering a room air conditioner, or firewood if used directly for cooking or heating. Primary energy, such as coal, is rarely consumed in its original form in a household or office but rather is converted into electricity, fuel, and heat. Thus, final energy, which is consumed directly, in some sense represents best the actual energy requirements of the economy and individual consumers.

In fact, neither primary energy consumption nor conversion is transparent to consumers.

For example, the production process for electricity is invisible to most consumers. Because electricity itself is carbon-free, it does not emit carbon or soot, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants at the point of consumption. How- ever, carbon can be emitted in converting primary energy forms into electricity. To a lesser degree this is also true of other forms of final energy, such as oil products.

Although the carbon emissions per liter of diesel or gasoline finally used in a truck are basically the same throughout the world, the carbon emissions. To Reconstruct the constituent decarbonization rates of the energy system, we make three assumptions. First, the carbon intensity of primary energy is defined as the ratio of the total carbon content of primary fuels to total primary energy consumption for a given country.

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Second, the carbon intensity of final energy is defined as the carbon content of all forms of final energy divided by the total final energy consumption. The third assumption is that the carbon intensity of energy conversion is the difference between the two intensities just described. So, for example, the carbon intensity of primary energy runs high when wood and coal supply most of the fuel.

The carbon intensity of conversion runs high when coal burns to make most of the electricity and when the conversion or transmis- sion and distribution system itself is wasteful. Efficiency improvements in the energy system mean that less primary energy is consumed per unit of final en- ergy; lower conversion losses therefore result in lower carbon emissions.

The carbon intensity of consumption runs high when the final consumer cooks with coal or travels by gasoline and when end-use devices are inefficient. Steady reductions in the carbon intensity of final energy in all five countries stand out above all.


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On average, the three industrialized coun- tries have spared about 20 percent since , while the pair of developing countries have cut back about 15 percent since the early s. The reductions converge tightly in the three industrialized countries. The gap between the devel- oped and the developing countries is also slowly narrowing because of the slightly more rapid declines in intensity in the latter. The major reason for the decarbonization of final energy is the increasing share of electricity in final energy throughout the world.

The percentage of global primary energy used to create electricity has climbed during this century from 5 in the year to 20 in to about 35 in A second reason is that the average mix of other fuels consumed for final energy has a decreasing carbon content, that is, greater shares of oil products and natural gas. Accordingly, these products also have a higher hydrogen content, a point that will be discussed in the final section of this essay. The carbon intensity of primary energy has also fallen in all five countries, though only very slightly in the United States, where coal has retained its strong role.

The carbon intensities of conversion give a completely different picture, however.

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The diversity in the development and structure of the energy systems of the five countries becomes apparent. In the developing countries, the carbon intensity of conversion has increased, while in France it dropped sharply; in the United States and Japan the conversion intensity initially rose before declining during the latter part of the period analyzed. Should China and India continue to rely heavily on coal as their primary. In fact, sometime in the next century the downward trend in the carbon intensity of primary energy could reverse itself, caused by an even higher share of electricity in end use but generated with coal.

Alternatively, China and India could restructure their energy systems to make increasing use of natural gas or nuclear energy and other zero-carbon options. Such shifts would align their energy systems with those of the more industrial- ized countries. Focusing on the United States and Japan, we see that the carbon intensity of primary energy exceeds that of final energy, with conversion intensity the highest of the three.

While final carbon intensity decreases somewhat faster in Japan about 0. In both coun- tries the changes in the carbon intensity of energy conversion are erratic, espe- cially compared to the steady improvements in final intensities. The overall re- duction of carbon intensity in Japan stems primarily from improvements in energy efficiency and, to a lesser degree, from the replacement of carbon-intensive en- ergy forms.

France provides a contrast. Here, the rapid introduction of nuclear energy since the mids has led to higher rates of decarbonization of primary energy. This strategy to achieve low carbon emissions is completely internal to the energy system and fundamentally decoupled from the consumer. Nevertheless, the relatively smooth improvement in final carbon intensity is similar to that observed in Japan and the United States. China and India present a different picture, though they resemble one an- other.

The three energy ratios and their evolution are similar in these countries despite their many social and cultural differences, as well as those differences that may be attributed to the varying development paths of planned and market economies. In both countries, the carbon intensity of primary energy is diminish- ing slightly. The carbon intensity of final energy, on the other hand, decreases at rates comparable to those observed in industrialized countries.

In India, the faster decarbonization of final energy is due to the replacement of traditional fuels by commercial energy forms. For example, the use of biomass mainly wood that is not replaced by a new forest is more carbon intensive than using either kerosene or bottled gas. The difference in carbon intensity between electric lighting espe- cially if efficient light bulbs are used and traditional illumination is even more- pronounced.

In any case, the developing economies are undergoing basically the same process of decarbonizing final energy use as the most developed countries.

Carbon Neutrality: Scenarios for Deep Decarbonization

In the industrialized countries, the decarbonization of final energy consump- tion has been accompanied by additional structural changes in the energy system. These led to improvements in decarbonization in the energy system itself, as demonstrated by the downward trends in the carbon intensity of conversion. In contrast, China and India have not undergone this transition.