What might the future of energy look like?

The Future of Energy

When it comes to today’s energy market, demand is growing, supply is primarily based on fossil fuels, and global energy-related CO2emissions hit an all-time high last year. There can’t be many people left on the planet who haven’t yet got the message that, when it comes to the generation of energy, we need radical change. However, even when people agree that something must be done, they can disagree about what that should be and how the future should look. So, what will the future bring? Here are some thoughts on possible future scenarios.

A clean-tech cold war

Each nation pursues clean technology that would result in discovery with the potential to alleviate climate change and remove the need for the use of fossil fuels – and one achieves a revolutionary breakthrough. However, that breakthrough sparks an escalation of political tension, and the nations of the world split into opposing factions. The result is that some countries are excluded from the benefits enjoyed by others, and continue to pursue old tech, reducing the global benefits that could potentially be gained from new tech.

Circle the wagons

Each nation plows its own furrow when it comes to energy production. Knowledge and tech advancements aren’t shared, and neither are values, ideals, and targets, as individual nations fail to agree on a united global policy. This spells the end of, for example, the Paris Agreement on climate change. Global warming is not slowed, and international conflict flares over limited resources.

Business as usual

Nations bury their heads in the sand to ensure the energy status quo – a global dependence on fossil fuel sources – prevails. As a result, fossil fuels retain their dominance, and climate change problems continue to escalate.

Global green accord

Nations appreciate the urgency of the situation and come together to find a solution. In this scenario, within a decade, green tech companies could dominate the landscape. Everyone wins – including “old tech” companies, who are compensated for loss and/or funded to evolve.

Now what?

According to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “How can humanity prevent the global temperature rise more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level,” commissioned following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, emissions resulting from human activity must decline by 45% (compared with 2010 levels) by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050, to limit global warming. To be clear, this isn’t a get-out strategy – even if we achieve this target, we can still expect to see widespread drought, famine, and poverty in the world as a result of the climate crisis.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we recognize the need to keep striving toward the reduction of emissions resulting from human activity, to keep innovating when it comes to relevant new tech – and to keep talking about the effect our industrialized society can have upon our planet. No matter our differences, we are all in this together. We welcome and endorse any enterprise that leads us closer to a clean energy solution that is also sustainable and renewable. All our lives may depend on it.

Hydrogen fuel tech could be on the verge of a breakout

hydrogen fuel tech

In terms of the worldwide adoption of zero-emission transport, lithium-ion battery technology is still leading the race. However, it may be a mistake to assume that will always be the case, and that there is an inevitable shift from traditional gasoline and diesel fuels to electric vehicles. The hydrogen fuel cell vehicle could yet be a contender for the frontrunner in zero-emission vehicles.

According to forecasts by the Hydrogen Council – a worldwide initiative of over 50 top energy, transport and industry businesses with a long-term mission to develop the global hydrogen economy – hydrogen will provide 18% of global energy requirements by 2050, while hydrogen fuel is predicted to power over 400 million passenger vehicles worldwide, as well as more than 20 million trucks and 5 million buses. If the Hydrogen Council’s predictions are correct, the hydrogen fuel market would create 30 million jobs around the globe, and reach a worth of around $2.5 trillion.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there were only 6,558 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the United States – against over 260 million passenger vehicles registered in the nation. There are a number of reasons for that lack of uptake. For one, hydrogen fuel vehicles aren’t widely available in many areas of the U.S. But a bigger problem is the lack of infrastructure – as of March this year, there were only 39 hydrogen refueling stations nationwide … Thirty-five of which are in the state of California.

Moreover, there is still the potential for exponential growth in the adoption of hydrogen-fueled cars. If that seems a reach, we need to look at hydrogen vehicles and fuel tech in comparison to the increase in the adoption of electric cars. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, there were just 4,736 electric vehicles sold between 2008 and 2010, while in 2018 alone, there were more than 360,000 electric vehicle sales in the United States. Similar growth in the sale of hydrogen fuel vehicles is absolutely possible – but that is reliant upon both government and industry buy-in, and investment in both vehicle technology and, perhaps more importantly, infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen technology is indeed on the verge of a breakout, and so is renewable hydrogen production technology, such as Clean Energy Enterprises’ Advanced Gasification technology, delivering practical waste-to-energy solutions to our clients nationwide.

Can hydrogen change the global clean energy landscape?

hydrogen technology

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but in its gaseous form is very rare on Earth; it exists mostly in the form of chemical compounds such as water, hydrocarbons and generally speaking organic matter. That means that we need to employ industrial processes to produce useable hydrogen gas. Currently, the most commonly used process is reforming of natural gas – 95% of the hydrogen now generated in the United States is produced using this method. Unfortunately, this process also produces carbon emissions, which are released into the atmosphere – unless relatively costly carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) solutions are employed.

While it hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption, another method of cleaner hydrogen production exists: electrolysis. By using green energy to electrolyze water, hydrogen gas is produced, with only oxygen as a by-product. While inroads are being made into industrial-scale production of hydrogen by electrolysis, costs can remain prohibitive. However, as renewable energy becomes more efficient and less costly, industrial electrolyzing technology and waste to energy technologies become more readily available, along with increasing global pressure to decarbonize, we are likely to see green hydrogen production become more widely adopted in the coming years.

Hydrogen has many advantages as we push toward a greener and more decarbonized industrial global society. As a fuel source, it is significantly more energy-dense than electric batteries. While personal and commercial electric vehicles have seen widespread adoption in recent years, batteries still don’t carry sufficient charge in relation to weight to allow for practical use in longer-distance transportation such as long-haul trucks, ships and air transport. In addition, batteries take a significant time to fully charge.

Advances in hydrogen fuel production technologies could begin to address some of these issues.

Hydrogen also has the potential to supplement or even replace the natural gas which is currently widely used for home heating in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. While replacing natural gas with electrical heating could be costly, and has the potential to tax electricity generation and distribution capacity during cold periods, utilizing hydrogen as either an additive to natural gas or eventually as the sole fuel could be achieved more efficiently.

If major natural gas producing nations – such as countries in the Middle East – do start switching to hydrogen, the way could be paved for a smoother, swifter and more realistic transition to a global hydrogen economy.

At Clean Energy Enterprises we see this approach being combined with the development of cleaner, renewable hydrogen production solutions. Advanced Gasification efficiently breaks down organic matter molecules to isolate hydrogen gas and recover it, in an environmentally safe manner. That will help to tackle our considerable organic waste and biomass disposal issues – that is, clean waste-to-energy solutions that deliver a win-win outcome.