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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds As we have seen, we need many technologies and many different systems to do the trick of building a future sustainable energy system. And the number of technologies is daunting. We are looking at a large number of renewable energy technologies. Many technologies to improve energy efficiency in all those different sectors, but also technologies to use fossil fuels differently– more efficiently, but also with carbon capture and storage. And this graphic depicts how different that may be from today. For example, the use of biomass can mean production of electricity and heat, but also biofuels, but also the use of biomass for new materials, in total leading to a bio-based economy for which we need new biorefineries and new supply chains.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds For large scale use of wind energy, we may need new electricity grids, for example, in the sea for winds offshore. That is a completely new system. But also in our built environment we may need new energy infrastructure for the built environment that produces much more energy itself. For example, with solar energy, or with heat pumps. So all those systems have different implications. And that means that we have to look at how they develop, what they cost, what is needed to bring them to the market.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Another example among the solar energy options is concentrated solar power that may be used on a large scale in desert climates, and that could produce electricity day and night due to heat storage that is collected during the day. So this diversity is huge. It is important that in the background material of this course, much more information is provided on the performance of different technologies and how they may develop over time. I already mentioned bioenergy several times. And this a complicated option, because bioenergy means the use of land for production of crops or the use of residues from agriculture or forestry. And that may conflict with future food supplies, because we also need more food. And we need to protect nature.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds We need water also to produce those crops, et cetera. So what are the possibilities for this option? Well, that depends highly on how we organise agriculture in the future. We need more food. But we can also produce food more efficiently. And here in this graphic, on the left-hand side you see a possible pathway that actually will lead to gradual decline of agricultural land over time due to technological improvements in food production. But on the right-hand side, you see a scenario that may lead to the opposite. So that will mean that at the moment we claim more land, it will also lead to competition with forest, with food supplies, et cetera.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds So sustainable use and production of biomass is linked to how we use land and how we produce our food. Well, this is a complicated graphic that depicts what is thought about the possible contribution of bioenergy in the future. It summarises in the middle different categories– residues from agriculture, biomass from forestry, the use of land provided that we perform agriculture more efficiently, the use of degraded lands, which would be good. We could restore them, for example, with reforestation, et cetera. And that could in principal add up to a technical potential of some 500 exajoules– the same figure, about, as the current global energy needs.

Skip to 3 minutes and 31 seconds But that also will mean that we need major changes in how we produce food and use land. So it is thought that the biomass contribution to the future energy supply will be lower, but still considerable. And then we have possibilities here. At the moment we have the biomass to use that economically in a very attractive way. Technologies are underway to convert biomass residues– woody biomass– to advance fuels for example, suited for airplanes or for future vehicles. And it could become competitive with what we expect rising oil prices in the future. So it is an example of an option that could become competitive on medium term provided the technology develops.

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 seconds I’ve already mentioned several times the importance of carbon capture and storage. This option is very important. At the moment, we keep using fossil fuels in the future, but also want to reduce our CO2 emissions drastically. And this option implies that we use equipment, for example, in existing power plants that capture the CO2 from the flue gases. Technically, that is well possible. After capturing the CO2, we need to transport it through pipelines, and then inject it in underground reservoirs like empty gas fields or deep water layers that are sealed geologically. And then the CO2 can stay there for an indefinite period. On a global scale we have enough potential to do that to make a major contribution. We know this.

Skip to 4 minutes and 57 seconds But also, as depicted in this graphic, it means a massive new infrastructure. We need the CO2 pipelines to link the CO2 sources to the potential sinks. And they may not be in the same place. So that also requires large-scale investment. And then as you see in this graphic, again produced by the International Energy Agency, there’s many different technologies where we can use this option. So that’s in power plants, but also in many industrial processes. So in this graphic you see a steel production mentioned, cement production mentioned, chemical industry mentioned, but also at the bottom, there is the green colour, this shows new use of biomass in new processes like biorefineries.

Skip to 5 minutes and 43 seconds And at the moment they would be equipped with carbon capture and storage as well. And the biomass is produced sustainably. That would result in negative emissions that I’ve already mentioned earlier. So this is a very diverse option that can also be linked to new conversion technologies.

The main technology options for an energy transition

Numerous options could provide us with the ‘solution’ for the discussed energy and sustainability challenges we may encounter. But what are those options and what is their potential?

In this video, André Faaij will discuss the main technology options that are related to energy systems. Technologies like wind, solar and biomass will be covered, as well as their potential for impacting current energy systems. You will see that the spatial aspect is also prominent when talking about those technologies. In Week 5, Christiaan Zuidema will show you why spatial requirements could drive or block the development of energy technologies.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen