ING: Green technologies could cut global energy emissions by 64%

Low-carbon technologies including electric vehicles (EVs), renewable energy arrays and innovative new fuels could help the world reduce carbon emissions currently accounted for by energy generation and use by almost two-thirds (54%), new research from ING has found.

During a recent research project entitled “technology – the climate saviour?” the Dutch bank undertook analysis exploring the potential impact of green technologies being installed at scale across seven sectors between 2019 and 2050 – namely power, heavy industry, real estate, light-duty vehicles (LDVs), trucks, shipping and aviation.

The scenario, which ING claims is “positive yet realistic”, involves the world switching entirely to electric cars and 65% to electric trucks, with 10% of ships using low-carbon fuel and 14% of flights using biofuel. As for power, the bank claims it is possible for wind and solar power to meet a third of global electricity demand annually by 2050 – the point at which it claims all coal plants will have ceased to operate.

Provided these trends come to fruition, global energy-related emissions will fall 64% from 33 gigatonnes in 2017 to 12 gigatonnes by 2050, ING claims.

The statistic is the headline finding of the company’s new report on technology and climate change, published today (5 December) at the COP24 summit in Katowice. The report claims that despite the predicted rise in global power demand, which is set to increase by 160% to 52,000 TWh before 2050 as the population grows, technology can help decouple growth from emissions.

“There is a great deal of optimism around the role innovation can play in tackling climate change, but in reality, there will be many technology-induced knock-on consequences which need to be addressed,” ING’s chief economist Gerben Hieminga said.

“For example, a rapid take up of electric cars and trucks reduces oil demand is likely to cause oil prices to drop. Without policies in place, this could trigger increased demand and emissions from aviation.”

The scenario detailed in ING’s report notably excludes any use of nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS) or direct air capture, with the bank dubbing them “highly uncertain technologies”. It additionally presumes that the general public will not adjust their current flying, building heating or cooling habits.

Policy shift

In order to achieve the benefits outlined in its 2050 scenario, ING is urging world leaders and policymakers to implement laws and launch funds which will incentivise and support the uptake of green technologies across all sectors.

Specifically, the report calls for the introduction of policies which will make technologies such as electric vehicles and sustainable fuels cost-competitive to traditional models, and lead to an uptake of investment in infrastructure to support their design, manufacture and use.

ING is also urging governments to implement laws which will counter any “rebound effects” caused by a shift to low-carbon technologies, such as increased grid demand and variability.

“In a world of rapid technological progress, we need policies to safeguard and reap the right benefits,” the report states.

“Technology has significant potential, but will need effective government policies which allow for continued economic growth, absorbs increases in the global population and aspirational middle classes and enable less reliance on nuclear energy to meet the climate goals.”

Manufacturing a sustainable future

The launch of the report comes after a similar, smaller-scale study from Centrica Business Solutions found that technologies such as battery storage and solar could “inspire a new industrial revolution” and save the manufacturing sector at least £540m on its energy bills.

Vast savings could be made from technologies such as new heating and lighting, solar, combined heat and power (CHP) and battery storage, the firm has claimed, while the UK’s productivity could be boosted by £12.9bn if just half of manufacturing firms took up energy technology improvements.

In a bid to help the sector reap these benefits, think tank Green Alliance recently launched a new green technology task force encouraging the development of innovations which will improve resource and energy efficiency across the industry.

Similarly’ edie’s own Insight Report into the state of sustainability in the manufacturing sector this year found that more than a third (35%) of companies in the industry are on track to source 100% renewable energy by 2020.

Sarah George

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