We must re-think energy infrastructure to reach net zero by 2050: report

Without major infrastructure shifts, we may not even make it halfway to net zero by 2050, according to a report by Worley and Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

The report, titled ‘From ambition to reality: Weaving the threads of net-zero delivery’, sets out five key changes to global infrastructure and energy systems that are required to meet the target for net zero emissions by 2050.

Drawing on findings from the 2020 Net-Zero America study by Princeton University, the report explains the US, forinstance, will have to drastically exceed its current build rate of low-emissions energy projects to stay on target.

Under one scenario modelled in the report, in order to reach net zero by 2050, solar projects with the area equivalent of 260 Tokyo Olympic stadiums would need to be built every week from now until 2050. Under another scenario, more than 250 large nuclear power stations would be needed to achieve the necessary emissions reductions from energy generation.

“The challenge to reach net-zero by 2050 is significant,” said aid Dr Clare Anderson, group sustainability lead at Worley. “The reality is, if we develop energy infrastructure the way we always have, we won’t get to net-zero by 2050 – not even close.

“We need imaginative solutions that are aggressively adaptive – and we need them now. It is an urgent priority for governments and industry to shift focus to the practical challenge of delivering energy infrastructure at an unprecedented level.”

The report highlights five shifts in the approach to energy infrastructure as being essential to achieving net zero by 2050:

  • Redefining project value, shifting emphasis from financial to social and environmental value;
  • Developing all possible low-carbon technologies for a diverse tapestry of future solutions;
  • Standardisation of designs to replicate and accelerate project builds;
  • Unprecedented collaboration and knowledge sharing between governments, industry and communities;
  • Fully embracing data and digitisation for optimised project build, performance and transparency for stakeholders and communities.

You can read the report here.

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