Global Energy Insights
Richard Stuebi shares information on regional energy archetypes and their associated pathways to shift the global energy mix.
Across the world, there is near unanimous agreement on the long-run vision for the global energy mix. This vision includes:
Widespread adoption of solar and wind (both onshore and offshore), augmenting hydro where available
Backstopped by various forms of storage (perhaps including electrolyzed hydrogen for long-duration needs)
Powering a society based on electricity for almost all stationary and transportation energy needs
Fossil fuels relegated to only selected niches (e.g., aviation)
Any regional variations in this vision relate primarily to the path taken towards this destination.
Simply put, different regions will navigate the energy transition to this end-state differently. This is due to regional differences in economic maturity, the energy infrastructure inherited from previous generations, available renewable resources, and prevailing political attitudes.
Most regions of the world fall into one of six archetypes, which in turn establishes how their energy sectors will evolve in the coming decades:
In certain places, the incumbent electricity systems have long been able to leverage copious quantities of inherent renewable energy resources that are both low-cost and dispatchable. Cases in point: geothermal power for Iceland, and hydroelectricity in the cases of Scandanavia, New Zealand, Brazil, Quebec and the Pacific Northwest in the U.S.
For economies such as these, carbon emission reduction goals for the power sector are almost moot, and the remaining move to a zero-carbon economy is limited to shifting vehicles to electricity from petroleum-based fuels. While this remains a major challenge, at least the power generation sources that will be used to electrify vehicles in these markets are already suitable for the 22nd Century.
By contrast, several regions seeking to be among the leaders in the clean energy transition — most prominently Germany, California and the Northeast U.S. (New York and New England), but also many island economies facing severe consequences from climate change, such as Hawaii — entered the 21st Century saddled with significant reliance on fossil-fueled generation capacity.
In these regions, fossil electricity is rapidly being replaced primarily with new solar and wind energy installations. Fortunately, wind and solar costs have fallen so dramatically in the past two decades that what once would have been prohibitive is now often highly cost-effective. However, because these types of renewable energy are intermittent in nature, large additions of supply are producing significant grid operations challenges. Because of the forceful political and civic commitment in these regions, it is likely that the drive for carbon reductions will continue largely undimmed despite the challenges.
Key points include:
- Fast-growing economies
- “Failed state” countries
- Insufficient belief in the need to take actions
Read the full article, Regional Energy Archetypes and Their Associated Pathways to Shift the Global Energy Mix, on FEA.global.