Enabling the Transition to a Future Low-Carbon Energy System: Important Scientific and Technological Challenges
Peter F. Green
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden Co
Average global CO2 emissions have increased steadily since the 19th century and accelerated during the middle of the last century. During the next two decades major global trends, including growing populations and increasing GDPs, associated with a projected increase of global primary energy consumption of between 30-50%, by some estimates, promise to compound this issue. Power systems of the future are being developed to provide energy primarily from low carbon energy sources (renewables, nuclear) in order to ameliorate this challenge (carbon capture and utilization will necessarily be important too). Electrification is projected to account for more than twice the current primary energy consumption during the next decade, due in part to the growing ubiquity of distributed energy devices (DERs) -electric vehicles, distributed wind and solar power generators, smart buildings and technologies and energy storage technologies. In an effort to improve efficiency and reduce the energy intensity, future power systems, largely relying on variable wind and solar sources, are being planned to monitor and control millions of DERs, in a manner that is secure, reliable, resilient and cost effective. To accommodate the transition to future power systems, significant increases in energy storage capacities, as well as wind and solar power generation (terawatts) need to be achieved. To this end, challenges associated with the replacement of critical materials in various energy technologies, new materials and process designs for wind and for solar technologies, advanced manufacturing and circular economy challenges must be addressed. The status and prospects of key science and technology challenges associated the energy transition will be discussed.