Risø Energy Report 9: Non-fossil energy technologies in 2050 and beyond, lists a wide range of energy technologies in the market with low or no emissions of greenhouse gases, describing how several of these will be made commercially available in the next decades.
However, it is not possible to make the world's energy supply CO2-free as cheaply as possible, using only technology development in the current energy systems, Risø warns.
There must be room for technological leaps and there is a need for an integrated process to optimise the entire energy system, from energy production, through transformation into energy carriers, to energy transportation and distribution and efficient end use.
There is also a need for a smart grid, connecting production and end use at local level. End users should contribute to maintain balance in the future energy system and new technologies should be introduced to the end users, including houses with low and flexible consumption, smart electronic equipment, heat pumps, energy storage and local energy supplies such as solar cells and micro CHP.
Information and communication technology (ICT) will determine how successful the integration of renewables into the grid actually will be.
Fossil fuels still needed
Considering the security of supply in the short and long term, there is still a need for access to fossil fuels, but they must be continuously replaced with renewable energy sources.
If we do not make efforts to promote renewable energy sources, coal and gas might easily be prevailing in the global energy supply for the rest of this century, Risø says.
For many countries, however, it could be advantageous to switch to renewable energy sources in order to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas. In addition, this transition can help the countries achieve their environmental policy goals.
A future smart energy system requires that we start investments now. If we do not make these investments, future generations will look back on this period wondering how we could be satisfied with an outdated energy system, without taking advantage of the opportunities which we already were aware of.