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The journey to net-zero

An introduction to decarbonisation

Global demand to cut carbon emissions

The energy mix is shifting, driven by environmental concerns and technological advances. Action is required now to curb global warming and achieve climate stability this century. The global energy sector needs to change. Our reliance on fossil fuels must reduce to improve long-term energy security, economic prosperity and climate resilience.

To meet net-zero carbon emissions, our dependence on coal, oil and gas must drop significantly. Hydrogen is integral to global climate goals, helping to decarbonise long-distance and heavy-duty transport, for which ICEs and BEVs are unsuitable, and energy-intensive industries, such as steel and concrete, where fossil fuels are too polluting.

Sustainability and ESG mandates are forcing companies to decarbonise. Decarbonisation is now legally binding and specific. The worldwide aim is to limit global warming to not more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but human-induced warming reached the 1°C mark around 2017. Hitting the 1.5°C mark will require the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 gigatonnes (GT) annually by 2030. Industries are committing to lower CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and harness intermittent renewable energy. Six main sectors need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions: energy, industry, transport, agriculture and food, forests and land use, and urban districts.

The energy sector needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 GT per year. It is no longer necessary to wait for new inventions but simply transition to renewable energy (and use energy more efficiently). Decarbonisation can be achieved using hydrogen with energy-efficient power and high-quality heat, especially if hydrogen is generated from renewable sources. Cutting carbon emissions from the fuel mix for transport, industry, buildings and power will be vital.

The industry is required to reduce emissions by more 7 GT per year by using renewable-energy-based systems and improving energy efficiency.

The transition to carbon-free fuels and zero-emission vehicles will take decades, not years. Transport is responsible for ~25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and this is set to double by 2050, but emissions can be reduced by 4.7 GT by using a range of electrified technologies (batteries, fuel cells) and potentially synthetic fuels.

Global warming

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to human activity have been the dominant cause of observed global warming since the mid-20th century. Continued GHG emissions may cause long-lasting changes around the world, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible effects for populations and ecosystems.

A rapid scale-up of electrolysis and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is required to help meet sustainability goals. To meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global climate change to under 2ºC, signed at COP21, the Sustainable Development Scenario estimates roughly 496 mt of clean hydrogen (renewable electrolysis and fossil fuels with CCUS) will need to be brought online by 2070. Concurrently, a decreasing percentage share of fossil-based production without CCUS will also be required.

Decarbonisation challenges

With 95% of global hydrogen production made from hydrocarbons today, there is an enormous addressable market for the adoption of PEM water electrolysers to produce hydrogen using water and renewable energy. Unfortunately, several key decarbonisation challenges exist, such as:

  1. How can we store renewable energy efficiently to achieve a stable power supply?

  2. Transportation of energy - how can we store energy in a way that facilitates global trade?

  3. Which low-carbon sources will provide adequate, large-scale grid buffering?

  4. Difficulties in electrifying sectors such as heavy-duty transport and industry where rechargeable batteries are not sufficient.

  5. Industrial and chemical processes which release CO2 and are difficult to mitigate.

Hydrogen and ESG consulting solutions

Explore SFA (Oxford)'s available hydrogen and sustainability services for clients.

Green H2 Consulting

Clean Energy, Electrolysis and Fuel Cells

ESG Consulting

Environmental, social and governance

How can we help you?

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