Energy transition within 1.5°C

A disruptive approach to 100% decarbonisation of the global energy system by 2050

Published: 30/04/2018

Decarbonisation of the global energy system is one of the big challenges society faces today. The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, states that efforts should be pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is a tightening of earlier agreements that put the limit at 2°C. In this paper, Ecofys, a Navigant company, explored the question: What does such increased ambition mean for the global energy system?

If society keeps on emitting CO2 at the current pace, the carbon budget to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C will be exceeded in one or two decades. The energy experts investigated options for a fast energy system transformation and developed a scenario against a background of increasing population and growing demand for energy services like space heating and cooling, transportation, and materials production. The resulting decarbonisation scenario includes several critical levers to constrain emissions:

  • Ongoing efforts to deliver all energy services in an efficient way
  • Electrifying energy consumption, especially for buildings and transportation
  • Fast penetration of wind and solar in the electricity sector
  • Adopting a range of other renewable energy technologies, from solar heat to electricity-based hydrogen
  • Bioenergy as a fuel source for the manufacturing industry and specific transportation needs and a role for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in specific sectors

As result of strong energy efficiency improvements, it is possible to bring global energy use below current levels to 435 EJ, a large contrast to business as usual growth to over 800 EJ. While the total primary energy supply in the scenario is decreasing slightly, electricity demand is expected to almost triple. Ecofys, a Navigant company, estimates that all this energy can be supplied from zero-carbon or low carbon energy sources.

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Kornelis Blok
Wouter Terlouw
Sustainable Industries and Services