A Global Energy Technology Strategy

A new report from the public-private research partnership Global Energy Technology Strategy Program (GTSP) looks at developing and improving energy technologies that it believes could cut trillions of dollars per year from the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six technologies - carbon capture and storage, biotechnology and biomass, hydrogen systems, nuclear energy, wind and solar energy, and end-use energy technologies - are evaluated according to their current state, future potential, and the R&D challenges they face.

The report argues that global climate change is one of the most complex environmental, energy, economic, and political issues confronting the international community. Its time and geographic scales are unprecedented in their scope, touching every human activity that involves energy or land and requiring a strategy that stretches a century or more into the future. The actions needed to manage the risks of climate change require long-term commitments to severely limit net emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by developing and deploying new ways of producing and using energy across the world.

According to the report, fundamental changes in the world’s expanding energy system are therefore required to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Incremental improvements in technology will help, but will not by themselves lead to stabilization.

A technology strategy is therefore an essential complement to national and international policies aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing adaptation to climate change. A technology strategy will provide value by reducing costs over a wide range of possible futures - an essential role, given the uncertainties in the science, policies, technologies, and energy resources.

GTSP has identified and analyzed six energy technology systems whose large-scale global deployment could have a profound impact on the cost of addressing climate change and therefore make it easier for society to take on the challenge of addressing climate change while simultaneously meeting a myriad of other societal needs. These advanced energy technologies are:

  • CO2 capture and storage (CCS)
  • Biotechnology and biomass
  • Hydrogen systems
  • Nuclear energy
  • Wind and solar energy
  • End-use energy technologies.

None of these six technology systems is a “silver bullet” - that is, none alone can stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations without cost - but together they have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. Each technology system is in a different state of development and deployment. Each is characterized by different challenges and will require different tools to enable dramatic expansion in a climate-constrained world.

The report argues that some technologies will play transitional roles or serve niche markets in certain regions of the world, while other regions might utilize these same technologies intensively. Yet despite all that is uncertain about the precise timing, location, and ultimate extent of deployment of these six advanced energy technologies, research conducted under the GTSP validates that these technologies are potential core elements of a robust solution set, even across widely different potential futures.

Read the Global Energy Technology Strategy report here (PDF).

The GTSP is comprised from a core group of scientists from Battelle and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), as well as the Joint Global Change Research Institute, which is a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland. Research is conducted in collaboration with scientists from institutions around the world. An international steering group, consisting of representatives from government agencies, research institutions, and private industry, guides the GTSP research agenda.

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