Is 2050 closer than we think?
November 21, 2023 / Quentin Roberts
2050: Near of Far?
At last year’s Future Energy Week (www.futureenergyweek.com.au) I had to opportunity to address some of the school students participating. Now while I might be dating myself a little, I talked to them about how when I was their age ‘internet’ was not a thing (I probably lost half of the audience at that point). I said fast-forward 30 years and here I am today working in a job that didn’t exist back then. How much more opportunity lays before those students now!
In my own mind however, I had a glimpse of how quickly that 30 years seemed to pass. I keep this front-of-mind when looking ahead 30 years’ time to 2050 which gets mentioned so often these days. I now appreciate much more the sense of urgency we all need to have if we are to see this clean energy transformation succeed.
What considerations need to be made?
What are the considerations you need to make in your transformation? Noting of course that many elements are interdependent, for example if you electrify some heat sources you start consuming more energy and might need to produce and store more. For some of our customers we are looking at changing a process altogether, which will reduce energy. How does that all balance out? If I do start using more net energy, will I need more infrastructure i.e. can the poles and wires handle it? This all sounds very expensive.
Naturally, amongst all this there needs to be an underlying pragmatism to ensure balance between nice-to-haves and affordability. We need to consider the life cycle cost and impact of the available technology. i.e. A boiler may have had a life of 30 years, but the replacement might be half that.
Then who do you trust? Suppliers and even Retailers have the sales driver in mind, so the advice needs to be independent of kick-backs, commissions and incentives. I raise all these questions not to cause fear or confusion but to identify with what many business leaders are already facing. Having so many options is great, but don’t let them bewilder you or fuel procrastination.
There are clear ways to navigate and there is support.
Technologies Available Now
I will mention a few technologies that are available now and are all very well supported with plenty of case studies to refer to. In an upcoming article I will discuss more of the ‘on the horizon’ options, that should always be kept in view in order to future-proof your strategic plans.
· Solar – either behind the meter or in front of meter. Solar stacks up in most occasions. We have even recently explored ‘floating solar’ for a client, but it’s more an option when land or rooftop is not available.
· Battery – Increasing in penetration, although prices haven’t been dropping quite to the degree we’d hoped. Still a very useful option particularly in Microgrids.
· Heat-Pumps – Very common in the residential space now and increasing penetration in commercial environments. Can present a challenge in terms of the electrical infrastructure upgrades which seems the major limiting factor to deploying more of this technology.
· EV’s – Increasing quite quickly and infrastructure is starting to catch-up. Vehicle-to-grid is shaping as a very useful option for bidirectional energy flows.
· Bioenergy – this has been around for a very long time, but with the increasing push for Sustainable Aviation Fuels and renewable gas supplies, this could be a beneficial option.
My encouragement is to take a methodical approach (and get help if you need) to sift through all the options and then develop an action plan to get there. This is where a system approach really gains traction, because a transformation is not a quick 1 or 2 year process it is a 10-20 year one.
In my next article "Ten steps to transform your energy consumption and carbon impact." I'll share some more insights on best-practice approaches in navigating a pathway to New Zero.