Achieving net zero by 2050 is technically feasible and affordable, but reaching that goal presents an immense infrastructure delivery challenge, according to a new paper from Worley and Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
Successfully developing and delivering the supply-side energy infrastructure needed to achieve mid-century net-zero targets requires five key shifts in thinking:
1. Broaden how value is defined.
We need to consider whether projects deliver social and environmental value, in addition to financial value. Some steps that would help broaden what value means include making the energy sector a more attractive employer, investing in technological options and earmarking the land that will be needed over coming years for the energy transition, increasing system redundancy, involving people who will be impacted by the energy transition in the planning and development process, and being transparent, so that “people trust in the governance process,” the report says.
2. Keep our technology options open.
Net zero requires a variety of different technology approaches within various resource, geographic, market and enviro-socio-political constraints. “We need to develop all possible decarbonization technologies,” spreading investment broadly and giving the best chance of enabling future solutions.
3. “Design one, build many.”
We must standardize as many aspects of a project’s design as possible, then replicate that design many times, while also developing projects in parallel. This will save time, optimize resources, and speed up the supply chain, according to the report.
4. Communicate and collaborate.
“Countries, policy makers, industry and communities will need to communicate and collaborate like never before,” the report states. “We need to form coalitions, empowered to hit net-zero targets and deliver value” in terms of financial returns, job creation and clean environments.
5. Enable and monitor digitally.
Digitalization is key to accelerating the net-zero transition. “Using digital technology, we can visualize the impact of a project, and track its performance once it’s up and running,” according to the report.
These five key shifts will combine to reframe our mindset and approach in order to successfully develop and build the infrastructure of net zero, within thirty years, the report concludes.
Other recent reports on the topic of reaching net zero by 2050 have focused on policy change. A BloombergNEF report released in June said that governments aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050 must enact policy to spur electric car adoption, expand charging networks, and push for battery recycling and new regulations on heavy trucks in order to reach the 2050 net zero goal.
And a report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy, and Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation suggests that in order to bolster the US manufacturing sector and avert climate change by 2050, timely research, development and deployment policies targeted at specific manufacturing industries could create competitive advantage and expand investment.