Discussion Paper

Countries as powerfuels consumers

Chapter 4.2

2030 climate targets for selected countries versus 2010 Picture: Adapted from (Ross, Rich, & Ge, 2016)

Powerfuels find their applications in almost all sectors and industries (see Chapter 5). Therefore, their theoretical potential corresponds to the current use of fossil fuels as energy carriers. Previous studies have attempted to estimate global demand in a similar way. World Energy Council - Germany estimates that demand could reach 20.000 TWh in 2050 and beyond(World Energy Council - Germany, 2018, p. 31), which corresponds to 20% of the current fossil fuel demand. It bases the estimate on the assumption that powerfuels will serve only selected applications in sectors where renewable electricity can be used directly, amounting to 10% of energy consumption in those sectors. However, they may constitute the majority of energy supply in sectors where no other de-fossilisation option is available (see Chapter 4).

Notwithstanding these theoretical potentials, with fossil fuels available and cheaper for the foreseeable future, demand markets depend on two factors: climate ambition and ability to pay. These factors differ strongly between countries. Further, in the absence of consumers voluntarily switching to climate-friendly fuels, market development will rely on governments to be ambitious in making powerfuels attractive and in economies to be able to pay for the sustainability mark-up.

The figure (right) shows that even high-income countries vary in their ambition to reduce GHG emissions. Nonetheless, almost all strive to significantly reduce them until 2030, and beyond. For the most ambitious countries and regions, such as the European Union, powerfuels may constitute a necessary technology to reach those climate targets. Emerging countries such as China, Turkey and Indonesia are still planning to increase emissions up until 2030, due to anticipated strong economic growth. As future demand markets however, high-income countries may be the first adopters as they are able to afford the higher costs associated with infrastructure investment and powerfuels production. Between those high-income countries, the most ambitious emissions targets are currently in Canada (-31% in 2030) and the EU (-27% in 2030). It should be noted however, that several regions are even more ambitious, as evident by efforts in California to achieve carbon neutrality in 2045 (Executive Department State of California, 2018).

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Countries as suppliers

Many economies are currently based on the export of (fossil) energy. For those countries, powerfuels can be an opportunity to hedge against the risk... read more