One of the world’s foremost energy modellers has forecast that temperature rises are set to be kept within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels thanks to the rapidly advancing efficiency and affordability of clean technologies.
- Global energy modellers Rystad Energy have provided an upbeat assessment of progress towards decarbonisation
- The firm says the pace of clean technology development puts goals for limiting global warming “within reach”
- Rystad says solar power will do much of the heavy lifting, with manufacturing capacity already ahead of schedule
Rystad Energy, a Norway-based firm, has released a report casting an upbeat light on the world’s progress towards decarbonisation, despite continuing increases in global emissions.
In the report, Rystad said disruptive technologies led by solar power were being developed at a pace that would “outcompete fossil fuels sufficiently fast to limit … emissions” and temperature rises.
Jarand Rystad, the company’s chief executive, said temperatures were set to increase between 1.6C and 1.9C under those scenarios.
“In addition, new technologies for methane emission reduction are coming, representing an upside of up to 0.2 degree of avoided global warming,” Mr Rystad said.
“Thus, the 1.5-degree target is within reach.”
The forecasts come ahead of the upcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where countries will try to thrash out ways of boosting efforts to limit global warming.
They also come as federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen redoubles the Albanese government’s commitment to its signature 82 per cent renewable energy target.
Solar ‘cheapest energy in history’
According to Rystad, a dozen technologies will collectively be the key to capping emissions by 2027 and then reducing them to ensure temperature rises are kept in check.
Chief among these technologies would be solar power, which Rystad said had rapidly become the “cheapest form of energy in history”.
The firm said new solar installations needed to grow from 250 gigawatts a year to 1,300 gigawatts by the mid-2030s.
It noted that while “this sounds aggressive”, there was already a staggering 1,200 gigawatts of solar manufacturing capacity under construction around the world – a figure almost 20 times bigger than the capacity of Australia’s biggest power grid.
“The current landscape of solar energy … is a testament to the remarkable strides made in cost reduction and efficiency,” Rystad said.
“The sector is already 29 per cent ahead of the tall order set under the 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario.
“This growth is characterised by an exponential increase in production capacity, with the cost per unit continuing to decrease as capacity doubles.”
Besides solar, Rystad said there were also massive gains to be made in electrifying the transport fleet.
It noted that electric vehicles were so much more efficient than those powered by fossil fuels, they alone could lower total energy demand by 22 per cent by 2050.
“By electrifying cars according to a 1.6-degree scenario, losses in road transportation can be reduced by a staggering 63 per cent by 2050,” the firm said.
Rystad said there were similar benefits offered by batteries and the capture and storage of carbon from fossil fuel projects, while technologies such as wind power, hydrogen and heat pumps would also be important.
Mr Rystad said the pace of change already underway should not be underestimated.
“We see no major show-stoppers like material shortages, but policy support initiatives such as carbon pricing and subsidies are essential to reach the lower end of the range,” he said.
We’re staying the course: Bowen
Mr Bowen, in a speech to the Lowy Institute overnight, said the 82 per cent renewable energy target was a “pillar” of Australia’s overall plans to reduce emissions 43 per cent by the end of the decade.
The Minister acknowledged the challenges facing the target, which has been the subject of gnawing doubts amid soaring costs, supply chain problems, labour shortages and growing resistance from some communities affected by energy projects.
However, he insisted the government would “stay the course”.
He said this was because increasing Australia’s share of renewable energy as per the target was in line with “like-minded countries” including the US, Canada, Ireland, Italy and Germany.
Most obviously, he said renewable energy was cleaner than fossil fuels.
But he said it was also cheaper and more secure, claiming “there’s no geopolitical crisis that can stop the sun shining or the wind blowing.”
What’s more, he said it was vital to Australia’s energy reliability, noting the ageing nature of the country’s fleet of coal-fired power plants was leaving electricity supplies vulnerable.
“Expert analysis of coal plant performance finds that the units are collectively unavailable for a much longer period … than was the case several years ago,” Mr Bowen said.
“This isn’t a political view, it’s a practical reality and reinforces the urgency of the transition to renewables.”