Energy Visions 2050
As part of its energy foresight research, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland produces a range of information on energy and environmental research for decision makers, enterprises and the general public. VTT has just published a book entitled ‘Energy Visions 2050’. The scenarios described in the book suggest that the development and deployment of new technologies coupled with close international co-operation on climate issues could enable climate change to be mitigated; however, success will depend on reforming the entire energy system by 2050.
Energy Visions 2050 assesses the key challenges facing the global energy system in the long term and presents an in-depth analysis of the various ways in which these challenges can be met. The examinations of future technologies encompass the whole energy chain – energy production, transmission and distribution, as well as end-use in different sectors, i.e. in buildings, transportation and industry. The book also includes a comprehensive review of global energy resources. The results of the Energy Technology Visions 2050 research project, which was part of the now completed ClimBus programme of the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), are presented in the book.
New solutions on the horizon
There are already new solutions on the horizon that will improve energy efficiency and assist in the transition to renewable and zero-emission energy sources. Already commercialised technologies offer plenty of opportunities for energy conservation and improved energy efficiency. In the building sector, for instance, current commercial technologies that typically add just a few percent to construction costs enable energy efficiency improvements of dozens of percent to be made in heating.
In the future, a wider range of technologies and energy sources will be used in the transportation sector. Over the next ten years, there will be a progressive shift towards hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, and biofuels will account for a larger share of the energy mix. In the transportation sector, cars powered by hydrogen-based fuel cells are often seen as a long-term solution. Uncertainties about technology development are significant, as is the importance of policy choices.
In global energy scenarios aimed at climate change mitigation, from 2020–2030 onwards, the main technologies for electricity production are expected to be wind power, fission-based nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as advanced co-generation and mixed fuel technologies based on recycling and biofuels. Without additional support measures, the exploitation of solar energy will start to grow significantly from 2040–2050 onwards, becoming increasingly important towards the end of the century. Advanced nuclear power technologies will start to carve out a share of global electricity production in the second half of the century. These include advanced fission-based nuclear power plant concepts that exploit uranium resources more efficiently than at present, as well as fusion technology, which currently is at an earlier development stage.
VTT works closely with the industry and other domestic and international partners to develop new sustainable energy technologies and solutions.
Technology investments needed to secure the future
Energy Visions 2050 is the result of extensive national and international co-operation. The scenarios presented in Energy Visions 2050 are based on extensive modelling to provide global scenarios for structural change in the global economy, the future structure of the energy system, and effective control of greenhouse gas emissions. Many experts working in various fields at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT) took part in the project, which was part of the ClimBus programme of the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes). The project was funded by Tekes, VTT and VATT.
The scenarios are not, however, predictions of the future. The kind of development presented in the scenarios will require multi-billion euro investments in climate change mitigation, and over half of that total investment will have to be made in the developing countries. Questions about how the costs and burdens of climate change mitigation are to be divided up among the developed and developing countries will have to be answered. Technology development requires investments in R&D, but this will create new jobs and new industries.
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