Energy is essential for human development and energy systems are a crucial entry point for addressing the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century, including sustainable economic, and social development, poverty eradication, adequate food production and food security, health for all, climate protection, conservation of ecosystems, peace, and security. Yet, more than a decade into the 21st century, current energy systems do not meet these challenges.
In this context, two considerations are important. The first is the capacity and agility of the players within the energy system to seize opportunities in response to these challenges. The second is the response capacity of the energy system itself, as the investments are long-term and tend to follow standard financial patterns, mainly avoiding risks and price instabilities. This traditional approach does not embrace the transformation needed to respond properly to the economic, environmental, and social sustainability challenges of the 21st century.
A major transformation is required to address these challenges and to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences for human and planetary systems. The GEA identifies strategies that could help resolve the multiple challenges simultaneously and bring multiple benefits. Their successful implementation requires determined, sustained, and immediate action.
The industrial revolution catapulted humanity onto an explosive development path, whereby reliance on muscle power and traditional biomass was replaced mostly by fossil fuels. In 2005, approximately 78% of global energy was based on fossil energy sources that provided abundant and ever cheaper energy services to more than half the world's population.
Energy is essential for human development and energy systems are a crucial entry point for addressing the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century, including sustainable economic and social development, poverty eradication, adequate food production and food security, health for all, climate protection, conservation of ecosystems, peace and security. Yet, more than a decade into the 21st century, current energy systems do not meet these challenges.
A major transformation is therefore required to address these challenges and to avoid potentially catastrophic future consequences for human and planetary systems. The Global Energy Assessment (GEA) demonstrates that energy system change is the key for addressing and resolving these challenges. The GEA identifies strategies that could help resolve the multiple challenges simultaneously and bring multiple benefits. Their successful implementation requires determined, sustained and immediate action.
Transformative change in the energy system may not be internally generated; due to institutional inertia, incumbency and lack of capacity and agility of existing organizations to respond effectively to changing conditions. In such situations clear and consistent external policy signals may be required to initiate and sustain the transformative change needed to meet the sustainability challenges of the 21st century.
The industrial revolution catapulted humanity onto an explosive development path, whereby, reliance on muscle power and traditional biomass was replaced mostly by fossil fuels. In 2005, some 78% of global energy was based on fossil energy sources that provided abundant and ever cheaper energy services to more than half the people in the world.
Emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important long-lived anthropogenic greenhouse gas, can be reduced by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS involves the integration of four elements: CO2 capture, compression of the CO2 from a gas to a liquid or a denser gas, transportation of pressurized CO2 from the point of capture to the storage location, and isolation from the atmosphere by storage in deep underground rock formations. Considering full life-cycle emissions, CCS technology can reduce 65–85% of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion from stationary sources, although greater reductions may be possible if low emission technologies are applied to activities beyond the plant boundary, such as fuel transportation.
CCS is applicable to many stationary CO2 sources, including the power generation, refining, building materials, and the industrial sector. The recent emphasis on the use of CCS primarily to reduce emissions from coal-fired electricity production is too narrow a vision for CCS.
Interest in CCS is growing rapidly around the world. Over the past decade there has been a remarkable increase in interest and investment in CCS. Whereas a decade ago, there was only one operating CCS project and little industry or government investment in R&D, and no financial incentives to promote CCS. In 2010, numerous projects of various sizes are active, including at least five large-scale full CCS projects. In 2015, it is expected that 15 large-scale, full-chain CCS projects will be running. Governments and industry have committed over USD 26 billion for R&D, scale-up and deployment.
Energy use is inexorably woven into the fabric of modern civilization. Human well-being, economic productivity, and national security all depend on the availability of plentiful and affordable energy supplies. However, over the past half century, we have come to understand that continued growth of energy use along the lines of current energy systems will lead to unacceptable consequences for the Earth's climate and oceans. Maintaining and increasing the access to energy services to satisfy crucial societal needs requires the development of a sustainable global energy system that transitions away from energy supply options with high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and unhealthy air pollutants. Disparity in energy access is also not sustainable. We must provide sufficient energy for the estimated 1.6 billion people who do not have access to modern energy systems today. Fortunately, plentiful energy resources are available to meet our needs, and technology pathways for making this transition exist. Continuing to lower the cost and increase the reliability of energy from sustainable energy resources will facilitate this transition. Changing the world's energy systems to reduce GHG emissions is one of the critical challenges that humans must face in this century. The required transition can begin now with improvements in efficiency of energy conversion and use, and with continuing deployment over the coming decades of a variety of existing and innovative technologies. With continuing attention to energy conversions that minimize wastes, have low life-cycle impacts, and maximize recycling of materials, a set of sustainable energy systems can be created.
Feeding, clothing, and housing a growing world population will be a significant challenge in this century, as will supplying the fresh water, heat, lighting, and transportation we will need to live comfortable and productive lives. This chapter discusses energy sustainability, with emphasis on the requirement to reduce GHG emissions. A sustainable energy system is one in which energy is supplied and converted to energy services in ways that avoid unacceptable consequences for local, regional, and global natural systems that control climate and support ecosystems that provide essential services. Figure 3.1 illustrates typical conversions of a primary energy resource (solar, wind, geothermal energy, fossil or nuclear resources, etc.) into a product, such as a fuel or an energy carrier, like electricity, that then can be converted to a service like heat, light, or mechanical work. Sustainable processes and systems that convert some primary energy resource into energy services will be ones that are as efficient as possible – smaller quantities of the primary energy resource are needed and fewer waste materials are created if the conversions are efficient. Some have argued that only energy flows such as solar, wind, and wave power should be considered sustainable. Others note that any system of energy conversions has some footprint and impact, and that sustainability is necessarily a relative measure, not an absolute one. In any case, sustainable systems will have low impacts over the full life cycle of the conversions (see Chapter 41). Recycling of materials used in energy conversions will be maximized, and amounts of waste materials created in the chain of energy conversions to services will be minimized when the whole cycle from primary resource to services (such as mechanical work) to waste heat and products is considered.
A transition to a low-carbon economy can be facilitated by CO2 capture and sequestration. This chapter focuses on capture of carbon dioxide from industrial emission sources such as electricity generation and sequestration in deep geological formations. A detailed description of the technology is provided, including the potential scale of application, estimated costs, assessment of risks, and emerging research issues.
Today, 60% of global CO2 emissions come from large point sources such as power plants, refineries, cement plants, and steel mills. Reducing emissions from these sources will require reducing demand for the services or materials they provide, finding alternative ways to provide similar services with lower carbon dioxide emissions, or directly reducing emissions by capturing and sequestering emissions. Technology to capture carbon dioxide is available today, but capturing and sequestering CO2 will increase the cost of electricity production by an estimated 50%–100% compared with today's generating costs. Moreover, an estimated increase of 15%–30% of the primary energy supply needed to deliver these services or goods would be required. Captured carbon dioxide can be sequestered in deep geological formations, either onshore or offshore. Sedimentary basins are the preferred location for carbon dioxide sequestration, since they are known to contain both the porous and permeable sandstone formations needed to sequester CO2 and low-permeability rocks such as shale that can trap CO2 for geological time periods of millions of years. The estimated capacity for sequestering CO2 is large and expected to be sufficient for at least 100 years of needed demand. However, the actual capacity for safe and environmentally benign sequestration remains uncertain, since CO2 sequestration has been employed for little more than a decade and only on a small scale. Nevertheless, the basic technologies for sequestration and performance prediction are mature, building on nearly a century of oil and gas production, natural-gas storage, CO2-enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR), and acid gas disposal. Enhancements of these technologies will arise as geological sequestration itself matures – but they are sufficiently developed to initiate sequestration today. Regulatory and legal issues remain to be resolved, including issues such as permits for sequestration-project siting, well drilling, and completion, operational parameters such as maximum injection pressures, ownership of underground power space, supremacy of mineral or groundwater rights, and liability for long-term stewardship. Resolving these issues and gaining support for this approach from the public are likely to be the greatest challenges for implementing CO2 capture and sequestration on a meaningful scale.
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