Energy Transitions: Fundamentals in Six Points

Energy Transitions: Fundamentals in Six Points

Fecha: enero 2020

Vaclav Smil

Transición energética, Descarbonización

Papeles de Energía, N.º 8 (enero 2020)

The public discourse of the unfolding energy transition has been poorly defined, it has been often misinformed and misleading, almost always ahistorical, and overwhelmingly unrealistic. In this paper I focus on six fundamental realities that must be taken into account: There is nothing new about energy transitions; All energy transitions have many specific attributes, but the one currently underway is truly unprecedented; Decarbonization of the global energy supply is taking place not because of resource shortages and excessive prices, or because of the need to do away with inferior efficiencies and to increase supply reliability; Even moderate reductions of annual global carbon combustion are difficult because our dependence on fossil fuels is enormous and because most of the humanity needs more energy and this requirement cannot be met by a rapid expansion of renewables; Global civilization remains highly dependent on fossil fuels and future demand for coal and hydrocarbons will rise in many middle- and low-income countries; And decarbonization includes energy transitions that are relatively easy to accomplish as well as carbon substitutions for which we currently do not have any commercial non-carbon alternatives. As unique and as unprecedented the unfolding global energy transition may be, it shares the key feature with its predecessors: it will be a gradual, multidecadal, inter-generation process with different and diverging national pathways and rates of progress. Still, our commitment to innovation and to better ways of managing our energy use can make a real difference to its rate of progress.

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