The transition towards sustainable energy has become a global agenda with a common goal: Transforming the traditional meaning of “energy” into “clean/green/sustainable energy” and accomplishing a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050. The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), a group of climate-concerned experts, has provided its insights on the basic resources required to achieve this goal, which is also mapped with the Paris Agreement’s target of maintaining global temperature below 2°C. The basic requisites are explained below:
- Green energy system backed with advanced technologies and sustainable powering techniques.
While the adverse ecological effects of a no-emission energy system will be significantly lesser compared with the existing fossil fuel system, robust regulations and initiatives are still needed to address specific issues. However, the successful development of green technologies could be possible through:
- A significant amount of investment
- Removal of numerous implementation-related obstacles
- Expansion of clean energy technology (CET) supply chains
- Adequate prerequisites for both water and ground – sources for significant carbon reduction.
The construction and maintenance of the existing and future clean energy system will demand equivalent amounts of land and water, but both are negligible in contrast to the requirement of the worldwide agricultural system. The following insights cover some key aspects of the future use of land and water sources:
- The existing agricultural system needs fifty times more land, compared with the land requirement of setting up renewable energy plants. These plants can also provide energy support to agricultural lands through photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.
- Water required for the hydrogen electrolysis process, energy production and carbon sequestration is close to fifty times less than the requirement of the farming sector.
- With a ratio of 0.5:41 and 12:41, respectively, the carbon emissions related to the development and operation of conventional energy systems rank highest, when compared with the green energy system and the agriculture sector.
- Abundance of sources to meet the growing demand for different substances.
The market for various supplies will be driven by sustainable power technologies in the coming years. More than six billion tons of copper, aluminium and steel are needed for the energy revolution by 2050, which counts for the majority of the future demand. As of now, there are enough industrial resources available on the earth to fulfil this requirement for 2050. Despite this, certain resources would not be available in sufficient quantity to meet the total demand, and the present projections of “reserves” will not be sufficient. Other than this, unique technologies will generate demand for specific resources such as silicon solar cells, metal frames and glass sheets for solar power systems.
- Swiftly rising market to result in scarcity of supplies and exorbitant rates over a span of ten years.
In the next decade, the demand for the majority of resources such as metals, minerals and non-metals is going to rise significantly. The supply gaps for a few resources, such as coal and nickel, can be partially or completely closed with effective inventions, effectiveness, and recycling measures; however, risks still exist for other metals necessary for the energy revolution. This indicates that in many scenarios, the current mining facilities have the capacity to fulfil the rising needs. To fill the remaining gap, the mineral extraction industry will have to increase the number of mines by more than 200.
- Addressing significant obstacles identified in the growth of a responsible supply chain.
- Evaluation of risks across domains for technology and resources.
Evaluation of the risks associated with the adoption of CET was done considering significant concerns around rising resource requirements, opportunities in recycling and invention, focus on supplies and the effects on the ecosystem and society. According to this analysis, the risks associated with the supply of electric motors and batteries were identified as most critical because the next decade could witness shortages of resources such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium.
- Legislators’ and corporate sectors’ role in the development of responsible resources and power mechanisms.
Industries and policymakers have the capacity to make significant contributions to the energy transition process by focusing on the following areas:
- Reducing strains on main supplies by boosting resource and technology effectiveness and expanding recycling
- Minimising the negative effects on society and the planet, increasing resource availability, and increasing supply security and resilience through variegation and technology advancements.
- Protecting and diversifying short- to medium-term supply alternatives, considering the anticipated expenses and advantages.
- Reducing the negative effects of the extraction business on the environment and society by enforcing strict regulations, led by the largest players in the mining industry and supported by informal norms and sustainable supply networks.
A complete analysis of the availability of materials and resources required for the development of sustainable power systems is expected to support all industries and nations in addressing the key areas and in the achievement of the desired targets. The ETC has highlighted all the important factors that can be considered while starting a net-zero journey and adopting the energy revolution agenda by taking the CET and resources into account.