Decarbonisation pathways: Transition pathways
Associate Professor and Research Director
Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS
Presentation title: Australian sector-specific Scope 1, 2, and 3 analyses for setting net-zero targets
Abstract: To achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, decarbonization targets and benchmarks for specific industry sectors are required. This opens up a whole new research area for energy modelling because although decarbonization pathways have been developed for countries, regions, or communities, few have been developed for industry sectors. In this research, we document the development of energy scenarios for industry sectors classified under the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) with a case study focus on Australia
A bottom-up energy demand analysis based on market projections for the chemical, aluminium, and steel industries forms the basis for scenario development, with the aim of completely decarbonizing the electricity and process heat supplies for these industries by 2050. We document the individual steps in the energy demand analyses based on industry-specific market projections and energy intensities. Furthermore, the carbon budget is calculated. The complete decarbonization of the industries analysed seems possible based on the available technology.
In a second step, the accounting methodologies for Scope 3 emissions were developed for entity-level accounting and reporting. However, we suggested an alteration of the methodology for industry-wide Scope 3 analyses because of poor data availability and to avoid counting emissions twice. In this article, we described the calculation method and the key results for net-zero pathways for these two industry sectors. We showed that the decarbonization of the energy supply is possible for both sectors globally by 2050. We also described the land-use-related Scope 3 emissions for the agriculture and forestry sectors. The agricultural sector is unlikely to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, whereas the forest industry can become carbon negative. This presentation provides a global perspective and includes Australia as a case study.
Australian National University
Presentation title: The Australian renewable energy export transition
Abstract: We explore the opportunities for future Australian exports based on renewable energy  in a study undertaken by researchers in the ANU Grand Challenge, Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific .
The Asia-Pacific has experienced prodigious growth in energy use and is by far the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitting region. Australia has to date played a leading role in meeting the region's energy and resource needs, becoming the world's largest exporter of coal, liquefied natural gas, iron ore, and alumina.
Our analysis shows that these exports are tied to sizeable consequential emissions at the point of use or processing, accounting for about 8.6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the Asia-Pacific.
The paper investigates three pathways by which Australia could instead export zero-carbon energy and products: direct exports of renewable electricity via sub-sea cables, exports of zero-carbon fuels such as green hydrogen, and the export of “green” metals processed from Australian ores using renewable energy.
Carrying out robust, high-level calculations we find that Australia has the land and renewable energy resources to become a key exporter of these commodities. The renewable export scenario uses two business-as-usual assumptions: (1) Australia exports the same amount of energy as it does now, but as renewable electricity (20% - or 540 TWh/year) and renewable hydrogen (80% - or 65 Mt/year); and (2) Australia mines the same amount of mineral ores as it does now, but exports it as green steel (510 Mt/year) and green aluminium (18 Mt/year).
Realisation of this potential relies on ongoing cost reductions, growing demand-side interest linked to meeting ambitious emission reduction targets in the region, the development of cross-border frameworks for clean energy trade, and robust benefit sharing agreements with First Nations people on whose land the energy is generated. If it were to achieve this goal, Australia could make a sizeable contribution to regional decarbonization via renewable-energy based exports.
1. Paul J. Burke, Fiona J. Beck, Emma Aisbett, Kenneth G.H. Baldwin, Matthew Stocks, John Pye, Mahesh Venkataraman, Janet Hunt, Xuemei Bai, Contributing to regional decarbonization: Australia’s potential to supply zero-carbon commodities to the Asia-Pacific, Energy, 248, 123563 (February, 2022).
2. ANU Grand Challenge Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific:
Presentation title: Community renewable energy transition and trading: a case study
Abstract: Over the past few decades, with rapid urbanisation and technological development, enormous challenges from population growth, carbon emissions and energy shortages have also emerged. In recent years, distributed renewable energy has been recognised as one of the best solutions for mitigating carbon emissions and energy shortage problems due to its lower environmental impact and wide implementation. For better utilisation, large-scale renewable energy is needed, and it has the ability of flexible scheduling and peak-cut can benefit the electricity market. However, large-scale distributed renewable energy development is constrained by unstable supply, potential grid impacts etc. At the same time, researchers noticed that peer-to-peer(P2P) energy trading could effectively improve the utilisation of distributed renewable energy and promote future renewable energy development. P2P energy trading has not only gained interest in research fields but also in the real world. Recently, there have been many research case studies and real-world projects as the pioneer with distributed renewable energy through P2P energy trading. Nevertheless, in most cases, P2P energy trading projects only stay in the development of directly facing the grid. Understanding P2P energy trading’s impact on the local distribution network and its potential target users is still underdeveloped.
This paper proposes a case study by establishing a P2P energy trading network with renewable energy resources and storage systems in the City of Greater Bendigo to evaluate the challenges and opportunities of the community-based renewable energy transition through. The P2P energy trading network employed multiple methods, including geospatial information system (GIS) processing and analysis, system modelling, demand data mining, reinforcement learning and game-theory auction algorithm. Besides that, this study identified the high-demand user in the local community, and simulations for P2P energy trading were conducted to evaluate the economic and energy performance. It is found that adopting P2P energy trading at the community level can comparatively reduce the energy bills for the identified high-demand user, reduces non-renewable energy dependency from the grid in response to the need for carbon-neutral and increase return for the household prosumers.
Also, the P2P energy trading’s technoeconomic impacts on local low-voltage distribution networks were analysed and discussed.
In short, this study establishes a thorough framework to investigate community-based P2P energy trading networks in a complex urban environment, proves its effectiveness, and gives other communities a blueprint for transitioning the established method of renewable energy utilisation. It can guide local communities in developing distributed renewable energy and P2P energy trading projects.
Postdoctoral research fellow
University of NSW
Presentation title: Material sustainability and the learning curve for decarbonising electricity using photovoltaic technology
Abstract: In the past 3 years, Australia has observed many significant natural disasters including hail storm, flooding, bushfire, and extreme temperatures. Most are induced by the impact of climate change, which is caused by an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions like carbon dioxide (CO2). The global CO2 emission in the past 10 years contributes over 22% of the total cumulative CO2 emissions since the pre-industrial period, which shows that despite the recent movement to reach net zero, the world is still far from reaching it.
About 30% of CO2 emission is due to electricity generation. Many appliances and systems require electricity including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). However, most of the electricity is generated using fossil fuels like coal with high emission intensity. Decarbonising electricity is the biggest challenge to mitigating climate change.
Renewable energy sources like photovoltaic (PV) and wind are the two main alternatives to decarbonise electricity. As PV does not require any emission during generation with over 30 years of lifetime, it has become the most promising approach to reduce emissions. PV is now also the cheapest electricity source in the world, where the capacity has been growing at 20-30% annually and has reach 1 TW early this year. Therefore, both environmental and economic benefits has shown a great potential to substitute fossil fuels. The PV and wind, however, only take up 7% of the total global energy generation. Therefore, the world requires significantly more renewable energy. One study also suggested the world requires 60 times more PV than what has been already installed by 2050 to reach net zero. Such projection, however, may unintentionally lead to material shortages. Despite PV is mostly made of abundant materials like silicon, aluminum, and glass, we estimated that the material demand may not only be significant over the supply, but the energy-intensive process to produce PV may also consequently lead to increase in emissions from PV production.
Moreover, as PV also requires the precious metal silver, the material surge will also lead to a silver shortage. The PV industry already has used ~13% of silver supply last year. Our work highlights the trajectory of material demand in the current PV market based on the learning curve. The work highlights the world needs to be prepared for the surge of material demands and more work is required to make PV more sustainable towards TW scale production.