Expectations on renewables need reality check, expert says


Unrealistic expectations about the feasibility of a 100 per cent renewables future carry the risk of skewing public debate and could lead to a massive and costly misallocation of time and resources, says David Byers, CEO of Australia’s leading CCS research organisation CO2CRC Limited, and co-Chair of this week’s GHGT-14 conference in Melbourne.

“It is only through global deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies, that the pathway to a low carbon energy system will be feasible and economically viable,” he said.

Speaking at the start of the five-day international GHGT-14 conference being held in Melbourne 21-25 October, Byers said that while many commentators are attached to the dream of a 100 per cent renewables world, it is important to understand the distinction between what could be theoretically possible and what is feasible in the real world.

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“Forty years ago, over 80 per cent of the world’s energy was supplied by oil, gas and coal. Last year, oil, gas and coal still supplied more than 80 per cent of the world’s energy. The global energy mix is unlikely to shift easily or quickly from the fossil energy sources that currently dominate, given their huge scale,” he said.

“Achieving deep cuts in emissions is not merely a question of marshalling sufficient political will. It requires the achievement of technological breakthroughs on several fronts and substantial cost reductions.

“Believing the world can mount a rapid, reliable and low-cost transition to an energy system that relies exclusively on wind, solar and hydro-electric power could lead to public resources being misplaced and discarding energy sources necessary to meet the world’s daily energy needs.

“Technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are commercially viable and ready to play a vital role in delivering cost-effective emissions reductions by transforming the global energy system without trashing it,” he said.

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The IPCC special report released last week marked out four illustrative global greenhouse gas emission pathways that limit global warming to 1.5ºC – utilising different mitigation strategies. Most pathways use Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and negative emissions to differing degrees. And all of these require CCS which is a CDR pathway that enables very deep CO2 emissions reduction.

In Melbourne at this week’s international GHGT 14 Conference, 900 delegates from around the world, will discuss the latest developments in CCS technology and progress in large scale deployment of CCS.

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