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Fueling the energy transformation

It’s 2035 and leading nations are quickly decarbonizing their economies. Other countries are beginning to piggyback on technology advances made by the pacesetters. Electricity generation is increasingly low carbon, fueled by a huge increase globally in renewables — wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal — as well as nuclear.

In countries with sound offshore geological resources, carbon emissions from industrial processes are being captured and stored safely. Hydrogen is becoming a common energy carrier in the power, industrial, transport, water, and built environment sectors.

Electric cars, along with biofuel and hydrogen-fueled long-haul transportation, are now the norm. Remote communities not connected to the grid are benefiting from hybrid systems that combine renewable energy and storage to deliver a reliable 24-hour supply.

Across the energy sector, people have been retained and reskilled, and new employment created. Air is cleaner and public health is improving. Consumers receive better service, improved reliability, and more competitive rates as benefits of the transformation are shared. Digital tools enable them to better manage their consumption and keep costs low.

It’s a vision for a cleaner, low-carbon, job-secure future.

This is how.

Cleaner generation

Cleaner generation

Global electricity generation capacity has increased by almost 8 terawatts over the past decade to meet soaring demand. With climate change driving the direction of travel, nations are pursuing low-carbon generation strategies in line with domestic resources and needs.

Overall, renewables account for nearly two-thirds of the worldwide growth in capacity, mostly from huge increases in solar and wind power generation. Asia, North America, and Europe are leading the way. The first large-scale wave/tidal plants have started operating in Europe and China.

Geothermal energy is expanding in several regions, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, while China and Brazil are among the nations increasing hydropower generation capacity. A handful of countries, including the UK, France, China, and India, have built new nuclear plants.

New gas power plants can now run entirely on hydrogen or a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. There has been a steep decline in coal power generation, with Europe leading the charge to phase it out entirely.

Project delivery: Renewable energy procurement, South Africa

Inspiring change: Powering communities with offshore wind

Our tools: Moata suite (including for environmental monitoring and to estimate solar yield and electricity demand). Watch the video

Scaling up hydrogen

Scaling up hydrogen

Hydrogen production is scaling up around the world, driving a virtuous circle of falling costs and increased demand. It is also helping to balance supply and demand for energy.

Natural gas businesses have ramped up their production of "blue" hydrogen using steam methane reforming with carbon capture. This helps them prolong the life and return on investment of existing pipelines and puts depleted oil and gas fields to use for carbon storage. Most blue hydrogen output is going to help decarbonize industrial processes, from petrochemicals to steel manufacture.

Meanwhile, cleaner "green" hydrogen is being produced through electrolysis from water, using excess renewable electricity, in ever greater amounts. It is fast becoming cost-competitive with blue hydrogen due to the falling cost of renewable power and cheaper and more efficient electrolyzers. Transported via pipelines and tankers, hydrogen is a cost-competitive way of carrying energy over large distances.

Inspiring change: Navigating the complexities of the hydrogen economy

Inspiring change: Anchoring hydrogen in the US

Storing up energy

Storing up energy

The world is in the midst of a massive expansion in energy storage technology to support the deep electrification of economies.

Batteries coupled with demand-side measures are common and provide short-term supply flexibility. Solar and storage packages are standard in most new buildings, while parked and plugged-in electric vehicles (EVs) in towns and cities combine to form battery banks to help stabilize local electric networks, compensating for the intermittency of renewable generation. Digital power systems technologies enable charging cycles to be adapted to the demands of the grid and needs of vehicle users.

Thanks to falling costs, many companies are investing in large-scale battery installations that they use to store electricity when rates are low, then selling back to the grid when rates rise. This irons out imbalances between supply and demand, promoting efficiency and grid stability.

Hundreds of terawatts of surplus renewable electricity a year are stored in the form of hydrogen. Pumped-hydro storage capacity has also increased significantly, with innovation adding to the potential for this age-old storage solution.

Inspiring change: Battery storage

Fueling transportation

Fueling transportation

Most cars are battery-powered EVs, while heavier vehicles, such as trucks, that require more energy are powered by hydrogen fuel cells or biofuels. Fuel cell or biofuel vehicles are especially popular in countries where long-distance travel is common because their range is greater and refueling times are equivalent to filling up gasoline or diesel vehicles. Fueling stations on major roads and highways host rapid-charging EV points, onsite hydrogen production and refueling facilities, and pumps for sustainable fuels.

As hydrogen production and supply networks expand, rail companies are replacing diesel-powered locomotives on many non-electrified lines with hydrogen, while shipping is beginning the transition to ammonia synthesized from hydrogen or fossil fuels with carbon capture, or other synthetic fuels.

New aircraft are ultra-efficient. The development of sustainable aviation fuels has been fast-tracked and manufacturing expanded to drive down the carbon footprint of the industry, even as passenger numbers increase. Electric-powered planes compete with traditional aircraft on commuter and regional routes, while hydrogen-powered aircraft are starting to be used for short-haul flights.

Project delivery: Moving to zero emissions passenger rail in California

Industrial clusters

Industrial clusters

Political support and targeted policy measures have accelerated the commercial deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage over the past decade.

Industrial hubs and clusters with carbon capture are now common in Europe, China, and the Middle East. By working together, operators have shared the costs of retrofitting carbon capture equipment to industrial facilities and the infrastructure to transport and store the captured carbon offshore. Carbon capture is also being fitted to biomass and energy-from-waste plants.

Carbon dioxide pipelines and geological storage facilities are stringently monitored for leaks. Skills and knowledge from oil and gas exploration are being transferred, safeguarding existing jobs. Technology leaders are exporting their skills to other regions and countries, supporting the creation of new jobs.

Project delivery: Watering the Big Apple

Blended heating, natural cooling

Blended heating, natural cooling

Electrification, hydrogen, and low-carbon gas such as biomethane are all being employed to decarbonize heating. Electric heat pumps are common in new buildings, and new technology, including water source heat pumps and heat balancing networks, is emerging and combined with sophisticated controls to deliver heat as a service.

Coordinated action by public bodies, safety regulators, gas utilities, and hydrogen producers on leakage, pipeline materials, building safety, ventilation, and gas detection is paying dividends. Hydrogen is being blended with natural gas in increasing amounts and transported through existing gas pipelines, enabling a rapid, cost-efficient transition for businesses and domestic consumers in countries that rely heavily on gas for heating and cooking.

Where the switch to hydrogen is occurring, the existing natural gas infrastructure has been modernized and repurposed. Manufacturers are producing a range of hydrogen-ready boilers and cookers, and government-backed initiatives have encouraged consumers to replace their old gas appliances.

As a result of locked-in climate change, the demand for cooling is increasing everywhere. Natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide and ammonia, combined with energy-efficient appliances and buildings, are now common, helping to keep homes and workplaces cool. Better insulation, shading, reflectivity, and ventilation also reduce the need for active or mechanical cooling solutions.

Energy and storage networks have been established in major urban areas. Residential, commercial, industrial, and public buildings are connected to balance supply and demand for heat and cooling, across locations and over time.

Project delivery: No heating or cooling systems required

Powerful new revenue streams

Powerful new revenue streams

Businesses and organizations with large properties have taken full advantage of falling costs to install renewable energy technologies on their buildings and land — reducing their carbon footprints and generating additional income.

Onsite renewables are integrated with storage and electric vehicle charging to balance supply and demand, while digital platforms automate and optimize energy consumption across a site and match it to user demand in real time.

Many water companies have installed renewables, enabling them to generate most of their own demand for electricity. The industry is also getting significant revenue by producing hydrogen and biomethane at water treatment facilities and by selling water to other hydrogen producers.

Hydrogen fuel cells have largely replaced diesel generators as sources of backup power in all industries, notably at data centers.

Major ports have taken advantage of their locations to become anchor nodes for hydrogen production using electrolysis and offshore wind power. They also benefit from the export and import of hydrogen, ammonia and sustainable fuels.

Inspiring change: Turning waste into energy in New Jersey

Agents of change

Agents of change

Digitalization has given consumers access to information and unprecedented control over energy use. It is helping them to use less, and to use it more wisely, so they can better manage expenditure.

Simplified pricing systems enable consumers to buy energy services and products to match their needs, and to easily opt in and out of demand-response mechanisms that reward them for reducing their use during peak periods.

Some consumers are trading their renewable energy in online, real-time marketplaces, generating income and providing their neighbors and communities, as well as the grid, with electricity. Community-based energy enterprises are becoming commonplace, pooling resources to access cheaper energy and improved energy efficiency options, and helping to reduce fuel poverty in their area.

To support the digitalization of energy, regulators require energy providers to ensure that consumers with lower digital engagement are not left behind.

Big shifts in consumer behavior — including the uptake of energy efficiency products and electric or fuel cell vehicles — have been encouraged through financial incentives, targeted messaging, easy and convenient ways to switch, and investment in infrastructure, such as accessible EV charging points.

Smarter utilities

Smarter utilities

Commoditization and decentralization of power generation have forced traditional utilities to adapt their business models and improve operational agility and efficiencies.

Smart meters, grid automation, connected devices, and data analytics have made utilities more productive, efficient, and flexible, enabling them to offer their customers subscription and contract plans that meet their lifestyles and needs throughout their changing lives.

Better utilization of existing assets and smarter deployment of energy resources are unlocking cost savings. Utilities are using digital tools, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to manage assets, predict and identify faults, forecast demand, and improve decision-making.

One integrated system

One integrated system

Energy systems are no longer made up of independent parts. A deliberate sector coupling is taking place in many countries to bring heating, cooling, transportation, industry, electricity, storage, and energy services into one integrated, interconnected ecosystem. This flexible, advanced cross-sector planning has incorporated diverse energy sources to deliver more resilience, maximize efficiency, and minimize waste, including waste heat.

Digitalization and automation have made this shift possible. Multisector digital twins — digital representations of the physical world — are used to manage the system and optimize asset performance. Digital twins are enabling better planning and investment decisions, improved system efficiencies, and greater reliability, using detailed real-time data about supply and demand, storage capacity, and asset and network conditions.

This flexible, smart system can respond better to customer needs and provides better service.

Regulating the transition

Regulating the transition

A thriving international trade in carbon is driving the rapid retirement of coal- and gas-fired power plants. International regulations to support the rollout of electricity interconnectors between neighboring countries have also been approved, enabling them to trade excess energy.

National measures including contracts for difference, feed-in rates, and tax credits, have encouraged huge investment in cleaner energy technologies by industry without damaging companies’ competitive positions.

Meanwhile, international standards and codes of practice have been put in place to cover the transportation and storage of hydrogen and captured carbon.

The transition to clean vehicles is improving air quality, and the focus of policymakers has shifted to addressing road safety, tire emissions, and congestion. With no tailpipe pollutants from EVs and fuel cell vehicles, vehicle standards now reflect the whole lifecycle, including upstream emissions from fuel production and the vehicle manufacturing process, while most countries have replaced road and fuel duties with road pricing.

Accessible, affordable, reliable

Accessible, affordable, reliable

Access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services is being made universally available by the enormous expansion and falling cost of renewable energy and energy storage.

Connecting the poorest communities and households has been achieved through innovative financing models, such as providing the up-front investment in return for a commitment from providers to keep energy rates low and affordable.

Remote communities use hybrid systems that combine renewables and energy storage to deliver a reliable 24-hour supply. Mini- and micro-grids avoid the need for expensive long-distance transmission lines.

Local people are trained to help install and maintain the equipment, providing a source of regular income. Unscheduled outages are now rare, improving the resilience of vital services, including education and healthcare.

Inspiring change: Powering the future

At the local level

At the local level

Rapid energy transformation has helped to safeguard employment in industrial heartlands by modernizing existing industries and providing new skilled jobs in the battery, fuel cell, carbon capture, hydrogen, and renewables equipment supply chains. Programs to improve energy efficiency in the built environment have created thousands of new jobs in many countries and regions.

National training programs equip people with the skills and qualifications to work in emerging and changing sectors. Oil and gas workers are using their existing skills and knowledge to deliver offshore wind, wave and tidal, hydrogen, biofuel, and carbon capture projects, as well as clean fuel hubs for transport.

Health outcomes for many have improved, particularly in urban areas, industrial regions adjacent to major roads, and where access to electricity has been poor or unreliable. Better air quality significantly reduces the number of people each year suffering from respiratory ill health.

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