Exploring the Innovation Technology in the Clean Energy Ecosystem

Anyone involved in the Energy world knows how complex it has become.

It seemed as we look back at the past; we had simply one power provider, using one fossil fuel, maximizing their dedicated infrastructure and transmission lines, to then deliver to their dedicated substations and then onto the eventual consumer or customer the needed electricity or heat supply. It is radically different today for numerous reasons.

Reality is, we need to undertake a radical redesign of our entire energy ecosystem.

The consensus is that over the next twenty to thirty years, we must undergo a drastic change in our whole energy systems.

Do we understand what this means? Can we grasp the complexity of this undertaking?

I think we have some real help in understanding this through how the International Energy Agency is going about tackling the complexity will significantly help; they have mapped the entire energy system.

So why do we need to make such a radical change to our energy system?

  • First, we are recognizing the greenhouse effect building, one of being overly reliant on fossil fuels. When you realize the significant impact that the present Energy System has on climate warming, the demand for change has become essential. Renewables offer decarbonization and sustainable futures.
  • Secondly, we are becoming frustrated increasingly, with power outages and the rising cost of our energy bills. Furthermore, our energy supplies are not keeping pace with the requirements as we increasingly rely on technology and the need to keep the energy flowing 24 x 7. Today we want choices and flexibility as well as control over our energy needs.

These growing issues are contributing to the ever-increasing recognition of how we are all becoming critically dependent, globally, locally, and personally on energy.  These issues are creating the demand for radical changes to occur, ones that will bring our infrastructure systems up to date in security, reliability, choice, and access.

The energy systems we have been relying upon have been under increasing strain for many years.

Some of the infrastructures are already decades old; they have become unreliable, have little chance to be upgraded, or are merely made-up of such a collection of “bolted on to keep the lights on” as interim solutions, that eventually became permanent and progressively layered on, over many years of incremental improvements to a creaking energy system that we are forced to be dependent upon. The time has come for a much-needed but daunting task, a complete energy transition globally, locally, and getting us engaged for our own energy management needs.

Over time this has built energy systems that are inadequate for the future. The systems have become increasingly inefficient and increasingly obsolete in a world where digital solutions are giving us greater flexibility in design and management and enabling alternative energy solutions to be optimized and realized.

  • The most significant change is the need to change our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables calls for the most radical transformation you can imagine.

The impetus of time is paramount for applying the pressure to change as our planet is in a rapid state of warming. We, as inhabitants, need to bring it under control before it eventually goes over the “tipping point” where global warming alters our planet and will make it increasingly challenging to live. We will see deterioration further in air pollution, land degradation, unseasonal weather effects, rising tidal water, loss of habitat, and species.

For me, the next ten years, between now 2020 and 2030, are our windows of “real” opportunity to put in place and reverse decades of under-investment and ignoring the science of what greenhouse emissions are creating, due to our heavy reliance on burning fossil fuels. We need to put the momentum into a radically different designed Energy System.

The Energy Ecosystem today needs reconfiguring to clean energy.

Understanding any ecosystem, you have to attempt to understand the whole system, the energy system is no different to relate and build out innovative solutions that bring this strain into some form of a new order. To help the International Energy Agency (IEA) are doing some pioneering work that I want to touch upon here briefly, so there is a broader awareness of this.

Recently the IEA released a new report, “Energy Technology perspective: Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation” on 2nd July 2020. In this report, they have developed some improved modeling tools to bring a higher capacity to answer key technology questions in greater detail that make up the Energy Ecosystem. This new modeling is good news and highly valuable.

Incidentally, IEA will further follow up later this year with a flagship ETP 2020 publication to keep a tighter and more consistent focus on the role and need of innovation to accelerate clean energy transitions.

The ability to map the entire Energy System

The work undertaken by the IEA has produced a comprehensive perspective of where we are today and our needs to track the achievements of different innovation breakthroughs known and in development or validation, to bring about the required clean technology energy solutions that need to be innovative in design for a new Energy System.

Their ETP Clean Energy Technology Guide is an interactive framework that contains information for over 400 individual technology designs and components across the whole energy system that contribute to achieving the goal of net-zero emissions. Currently, this stands at 433.

For each of these technologies, it includes information on the level of maturity (or Technology Readiness Level, TRL) and a compilation of development and deployment plans, as well as cost and performance improvement targets and leading players in the field.

You can use the different filters offered to narrow down the selection of technologies you are interested in, to achieve your designated search. Also, they provide an amazing poster version that covers all the energy ecosystem aspects. Here is a download link to this poster.

The Critical Parts of the Clean Energy Ecosystem

Briefly, the IEA approach breaks down the Energy Ecosystem by the classic Supply-side, the Co2 infrastructure aspects needed for clean energy, and the Demand Sectors by the crucial parts of transport, industry, and buildings.

The Supply Side requirement from Clean Energy Technologies

The guide goes into all aspects of the technologies in the energy transformation on power generation, heat, tackling biofuels, hydrogen, ammonia, synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, and refining. The technology grouping is then further broken down into generation, storage, and infrastructure as well as specific production and transport where necessary.

The Co2 infrastructure required for Clean Energy

This looks at the importance of Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilization (CCSU) with a breakdown of Supply sided CCU’s, Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Demand CCU’s tackling high-value chemicals, methanol, ammonia, iron and steel, cement and aluminum by fuels and methods

The Demand Sectors needs from Clean Energy Innovation Technologies

Within the breakdown, you have a structured approach to the technology grouping, the technologies applied, the sub-technology where necessary, and the specific components or designed needed. Within this demand side, it breaks the three significant energy consumers down into transport, industry, and buildings.

Transport covers the road, rail, shipping, aviation, and freight, showing sub-components or design by vehicle mode, their needed infrastructure, operations, and necessary components of different design solutions.

The industry segment covers critical a comprehensive breakdown of dealing with different “harder-to-abate areas covering ammonia, methanol, ethylene, benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Then it covers the specific industry sectors of high-value chemicals, plastics, iron and steel, cement, pulp and paper, aluminum, metallic products, and finally, cross-cutting one that requires systems integration. The technology applied covers fossil fuel, biomass-based, electrolytic H2 based, further broken down into recycling, blast furnacing, smelting, kilns, grinding, curing, pulping, and waste production conversion.

The buildings segment is broken down firstly into construction, renovation, then their heating and cooling options and designs, with further sections dealing with cooking, lighting, and system integration. Here it is looked at by generation, performance, efficiency, co-generation, distribution, control system, and storage.

To capture the Ecosystem of Energy Innovations and Technologies is a fantastic piece of work

This work is a stunning breaking down of the entire Energy System, which was updated this year by the  International Energy Agency and presented in such a visual way in the poster design work by Lundgren+Lindqvist gives us all the understanding of the complexity but also the innovation technology opportunities available.

The other more amazing part is the interactive website for using and tracking the evolution of The Clean Energy in Innovations and Technology as an ongoing Guide for presently 433 identified individual technology designs and components across the whole energy system for knowing where we are in their contribution to achieving the goal of net-zero emissions is impressive.

Yout time would be well-invested in viewing this work by the IEA if you want to grasp the entirety of the Energy System as a whole and what makes up this Ecosystem

I have to recommend anyone interested in the Energy System take a look at the website or download the poster to appreciate the complexity of the design and change we are all caught up in and need to support.

Our energy systems and tracking their progress today and in the future allows us all to participate and build more pressure on those undertaking the need for a radical redesign. It is of a scale that can be better understood by this work that the IEA is undertaking, showing the innovations for technologies that can deliver the clean energy ecosystem we need to have in place..

Do take the time to visit the website https://www.iea.org/articles/etp-clean-energy-technology-guide

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