Electric innovation can solve climate issues, say global utility firms

A coalition of electricity suppliers with a collective customer base of more than 1.2 billion people has released a major new report for the Paris climate conference, detailing how electricity innovations can help tackle global warming.

The group, known as the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) – which includes EDF, RWE and American Electric Power – said that innovation in new technologies “would be the cornerstone for a sustainable energy transition”.

The report details 50 individual technologies that could be developed – from traditional renewables to more advanced solutions – including floating offshore wind farms, deep-sea carbon capture, compressed-air energy storage, and smart grids.

Regional focus

For example, on onshore wind, the report states: “We could see a progression to very large turbines [8MW and over]. This will reduce costs and open the way to developing wind power in areas with weaker wind resources. 

“Turbines that do not interfere with radars would allow installation in radar exclusion zones, while those with hot air circulation systems or electric heating to prevent ice from forming on the blades would open up development in colder regions with significant wind resources.”

The report also outlines electricity-related trends in key regions and countries including Europe, USA, China, Japan, Brazil and India. It stresses that an optimal combination of existing and new technologies will vary from country to country, even within geographical regions. 

In China, for example, the report said an emissions market could accelerate the substitution of other fuels for coal and the promotion of the most efficient technologies. By contrast in India, the key challenge is improving the efficiency of existing fossil-fuel plants.

Call to action

The report, which will be presented to world leaders at the COP21 Paris climate conference in December, was accompanied by an open letter signed by executives of the 11 GSEP members.

The letter stated: “We urge Parties when establishing a long-term, international agreement against climate change at COP21 to enable effective frameworks that channel investments and operations, in all sectors but especially in the electricity sector, to support the development and deployment of reliable and affordable technologies in order to deliver lower or zero carbon emissions.”

The executives also laid out a four-point plan of action for political leaders:

1. Establish consistent long-term policies that aim to deliver reliable, accessible and affordable electricity to tackle climate change. 

2. Develop a systemic approach to electricity systems which takes into account the interrelations and synergies between the various elements of the electricity value chain.

3. Promote and engage in public-private partnerships that foster the development and deployment of new commercially available technologies.

4. Make urgent progress with innovative research, development and demonstrations of advances economically viable technologies that will stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and accelerate the efficient generation, delivery and end-use of electricity. 

Politicians heading to Paris have recieved numerous other open letters in recent weeks, from blue chip CEOs, food manufacturers, airlines and engineers alike. 

Brad Allen

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