In order to decarbonize the economy, European researchers recommend early and steadily that the economic sectors be “electrified” with wind and solar energy.
For the study, researchers from Aarhus University used high-resolution data to model the decarbonization of Europe’s sector-coupled energy system – the energy that heats and cools buildings, drives traffic and drives industry.
To meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, economies around the world must find a way to move away from fossil fuels and replace dirty energy sources with green electricity, researchers say.
The authors of the latest study, which was published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications, knew this too. They wanted to find out whether or not there was an ideal strategy for adopting green energy investments.
To find out, the researchers used Aarhus University’s PRIME supercomputer to simulate the modification of the interconnected sectors of the energy system.
“We are asking what energy strategy we need to use to meet the 2050 target. We have a ‘carbon budget’ – the maximum amount of CO2 we can emit – and how do we make sure we reach 2050.” Climate neutrality in the cheapest and most feasible way? “The study’s lead author, Marta Victoria, said in a press release.
The models designed by Victoria and her colleagues considered two basic strategies: early and steady, or late and fast.
“Our model clearly shows that the most cost-effective solution is to act now – be ambitious in the short term. And we find that solar, onshore and offshore wind are the most cost-effective cornerstones in a fully decarbonized 2050 energy system,” he said Victoria, photovoltaics expert and assistant professor in the engineering department in Aarhus.
Victoria acknowledged that decarbonizing the economy, steadily or rapidly, will be a significant challenge. Even the early and steady strategy requires periods of aggressive – faster, more even – installation and introduction of wind and solar energy.
“In a few years we will have to install more than 100 gigawatts of solar PV and wind power, and to achieve full decarbonization, carbon prices must be much higher than they are today,” she said.
For this transition from fossil fuels to green energy to make economic sense, the researchers suggest that the price of carbon needs to be increased relatively quickly.
And even if more and more wind and solar energy sources are switched online, the energy system still has to rely on gas in so-called “nightmare weeks”, when icy temperatures trigger peaks in energy demand.
“District heating systems are efficient for very cold and critical periods when electricity and heating needs are high but wind and solar energy production is low,” said Victoria. “During these weeks, large hot water tanks discharge. In this way, we ensure that future energy systems will work for every possible scenario.”
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Stanford CA (SPX) November 27, 2020
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