IEA (2020), Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/energy-technology-perspectives-2020, License: CC BY 4.0
No single fuel or technology can enable the entire energy sector to reach net-zero CO2 emissions. Success depends upon a wide range of fuels and technologies, tailored to individual parts of the energy sector and to country-specific circumstances.
Net-zero CO2 emissions require a fundamental change in the way we produce and use energy, as demonstrated in the Sustainable Development Scenario. At net-zero emissions, low-carbon electricity, bioenergy, hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels combined provide more than 70% of final energy needs, about the same share as currently provided by fossil fuels.
The power sector is among the first to decarbonise, drawing on a wide range of available technologies including renewables, CCUS and nuclear. Global electricity generation nearly triples to 2070, equivalent to adding the People’s Republic of China’s (“China” hereafter) current power sector to the global system every eight years. About 70% of the growth is to satisfy rising electricity demand in end-use sectors, and 30% is to produce low-carbon fuels, in particular hydrogen.
Around 300 Mt of hydrogen are produced from electrolysers in 2070 in the Sustainable Development Scenario. This requires 13 750 TWh of electricity, equivalent to half of global electricity generation today. Electrolyser capacity rises from 170 MW today to more than 3 000 GW by 2070. Hydrogen production with CCS also plays an important role in regions with low cost gas resources and available CO2 storage.
Industry, transport and buildings sector CO2 emissions each drop by 90% or more by 2070. In the industry sector, electricity use doubles, but around three-quarters of cumulative emissions reduction to 2070 rely on pre-commercial technologies, including CCUS. Electrification also accounts for over 30% of cumulative emissions reduction in transport to 2070, followed by biofuels and hydrogen that play an increasing role to 2070 for long-distance transport. In buildings, electrification is the primary decarbonisation lever, alongside energy efficiency and renewables.
The transition to net-zero CO2 emissions requires significant investment in clean energy technologies. Overall investment needs through to 2070 are USD 31 trillion (or 10%) higher in the Sustainable Development Scenario than in the Stated Policies Scenario, and investment in new technologies becomes increasingly important over time. In the 2060s, almost half of total annual average investment is spent on technologies that are at the demonstration or prototype stage today.