The future of electricity and its limitations

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Industry, agriculture and aviation are the climate outliers still lacking tangible decarbonisation technologies. Industries will become increasingly exposed to climate change politics as other sectors modernise, and simply cutting CO2 emissions at the edges will not be sufficient. Forecasting into a future that lacks climate solutions for industrial production paints a worrying image both for the climate and the continued social acceptability of industry.

photo-1477949547006-b5ca1efd0f09 Credit: Unsplash

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As more and more electricity comes from renewables, direct electrification of processes means they will take an increasing share in final energy use. People replace their diesel and petrol cars with electric ones, their heat generation will be electrified and as consumption patterns change, CO2 emissions will drop. In this world, industrial emissions grow in proportion to total emissions, sooner or later becoming the biggest source of CO2. It is foreseeable that without new production technologies and replacement materials, industrial sectors will be responsible for half or more of Europe’s remaining CO2 emissions.

When climate change impacts become more pronounced and global temperatures continue to rise in the coming years – who will still stand by and accept the unreformed local polluting industry parked at their doorstep. The current defence of some industrialists – who XX claim their CO2 emissions are “unavoidable” and their businesses too important – is commercially unsustainable. Will these sectors be forced to shut down or will local solutions be available to make European industry compatible with deep CO2 reduction?

98% of electricity production in Norway comes from renewable energy sources[i]

Nevertheless, the country ranks 32nd in emissions per capita globally[ii]

 

Norway: Renewable electricity is not enough

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Focusing on reducing emissions in the power sector is an important and fundamental step. But it is not enough. Even though Norway is ahead of many EU countries by already generating effectively all of its electricity from low-carbon sources, it still has a similar CO2 footprint per person as Poland – even without including Norway’s major oil and gas industry[iii]. Most of these emissions come from its economic activity, industries and the transport sector, although Norway also has the world’s largest market for electric cars[iv]. As the country continues to struggle to meet its 40% GHG reduction targets for 2030, the Norwegian case shows the limits of clean energy and the challenging task ahead of addressing more hard-to-abate sectors.

Read more about the industry’s potential in our report “An Industry’s Guide to Climate Action”

[i] Norwegian Government, “Renewable energy production in Norway:,” 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/energy/renewable-energy/renewable-energy-production-innorway/id2343462/.

[ii] Knoema, “Norway – CO2 emissions per capita,” 2018. [Online]. Available: https://knoema.com/ atlas/Norway/CO2-emissions-per-capita.

[iii] Bellona, “Virtuous Climate Ambitions: Virtual Solutions. Precarious delivery of industrial CO2 capture & storage projects in Norway,” 2018.

[iv] C. Knudsen and A. Doyle, “Norway Powers Ahead (electrically): over half new car sales now electric or hybdrid,” 03 January 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environmentnorway-autos/norway-powers-ahead-over-half-new-car-sales-now-electric-or-hybrid-idUSKBN1ES0WC.

 

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org