A few days ago, the International Energy Agency launched a report entitled “Net Zero by 2050, Roadmap for the energy sector”, in which it made a complete U-turn with respect to its traditional principles. For the first time, the Agency, which was created within the OECD to deal with the oil crisis in the 1970s, has made a qualitative leap in the transition from hydrocarbons to clean energies in order to accelerate the process. A change of discourse that is not for the benefit of inventory due to the very nature of the IEA, which has acted to date as the main energy policy advisor for developed countries.
In essence, the IEA is calling for an end to new investments in oil wells and coal-fired power plants, i.e. to halt new development of traditional hydrocarbons, to accelerate investments in renewable energies, and to focus on the maximum possible electrification of economies in order to complete the decarbonization that will enable us to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.
This proposal, which goes beyond the policy followed so far in the fight against climate change by most countries, sets out some possible milestones – likely to be met if the global effort becomes a reality – which in any case require large public investments, maximum private participation and, most especially, an innovative drive in the process, the objectives and the development and mix of new clean energies, beyond those already known.
A quick review allows us to see that, by 2025, the installation of hydrocarbon boilers must cease; that by 2030, the green certification of new buildings must be ready; that by 2035 all cars and 50 percent of trucks must be electric; that by 2040, 50 percent of aviation fuels must be low in emissions; and that by 2045, 70 percent of the electricity produced in the world must come from renewable sources.
However, the major oil companies have been working for some time on adapting their models to the energy transition in the renewable business and have in fact significantly reduced their new investments in recent years because, among other reasons, unless they have localized oilfields, new exploration is very costly and time-consuming.
Let us not forget that decarbonization requires order and time and that it cannot be confused with electrification. Among other things, around 90 percent of the world’s cars still run on fuel, and airplanes, ships, trucks and many industrial facilities are not electrifiable (such as steel mills or cement plants).
This is important to bear in mind because the efforts we make, which as I said at the beginning are enormous, must be well measured and well focused. Sustainability can only be achieved through well-planned innovation, not on complex assumptions or assumptions that are not adapted to the available resources and the needs we have.
Order and timing
Two of the major processes that must advance it are energy storage and hybridization, which are key players in the development of new fuels based on the electricity produced by renewables, with the capacity to be stored and produced directly or through its energy mix.
This for traditional clean energies, because the latest developments are positioning green hydrogen, among others, as the fuel of the future, and they are doing so all over the world. From the United States to China, passing naturally through our country and Andalusia. And therein lies the key: investment in research and innovation in everything that involves clean energies -and waste management- so that the energy transition reaches the most immediate objectives, not only already set by the IEA, but also by the same social needs. This is a real change in the production model that will open up new employment prospects in the face of digitalization and automation. And it is a change that will take time, it will not be immediate, but it must be constant and growing every day. Sustainable and permanently innovative.