Energy Transition Compass: Where We Are

COP28 left us with many considerations. For the first time, following intense negotiations, representatives of nearly 200 countries approved a global pact that explicitly called for “transitioning away from fossil fuels”, and doing so in a “just, orderly and equitable manner.”

Beyond this significant deal, which was included in the final text, a variety of other commitments were made over the course of the two-week conference. Signatories also agreed to triple the deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and double the rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030.

Regarding other major commitments, an important one is related to methane emission: on the fourth day of the conference, a cohort of approximately 50 oil and gas producing countries and companies pledged to achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030. Given methane’s extreme potency (30 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide), the reduction of its emissions has been a key focus. Supporting this pledge, $1 billion in grant funding was announced from some of the highest emitting countries in the world. 

Furthermore, COP28 highlighted that Nuclear and Carbon Capture are within the basket of solutions. Twenty-two nations joined the Net-Zero Nuclear Initiative, committing to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050. 

What comes next? Addressing the 45% of emissions that arise from how we produce and consume is imperative. Emissions from production processes, deforestation and land-use choices, landfill, incineration, open waste burning are not dependent on the energy source and are still critical to get us on a Paris-aligned trajectory. The circular economy systems transition is key to delivering these emissions reductions and in designing resilience into our economic system. 

As the COP28 President said, an agreement is only as good as the implementation that follows. We need to urgently move forward on bringing circular economy solutions to market at scale in tandem with and as part of delivering the energy systems transition.

Globally, however, research demonstrates how far we are from the path toward energy transition.   According to the annual report monitoring the climate mitigation efforts of 63 countries plus the EU, once again this year the top three positions in the ranking have not been assigned, as none of the countries has achieved the necessary performance to contribute to addressing the climate emergency and containing the planet's warming within the critical threshold of 1.5°C. Italy, in particular, has dropped from 29th to 44th place in the list of countries committed to energy transition.

While western countries are pursuing a fair transition to solve the energy trilemma, many eastern countries are also looking for economic growth through the opportunities arising from the energy transition, for which the production of technologies and the processing of raw materials are essential.  

The energy transition to achieve decarbonization is probably one of the toughest challenges ever addressed on a global scale: complexity is embedded in the challenge itself. The solution must be a dynamic one which is adjusted periodically and characterized by fair compromises in the short term, and far-sighted projects in medium and long term, and duly supported by a strong commitment by all the stakeholders.  

RINA, with its experience in multiple sector markets across the globe, is committed to simplifying these complex problems for customers, offering companies achievable solutions.  

RINA’s unique set of competences and capabilities enables us to provide companies with a trusted technology-neutral partner. It is our pride to be an active player in the journey towards the achievement of net zero, supporting and accompanying customers and stakeholders in achieving their sustainability goals by facilitating the identification of new reliable solutions -and in doing so validating the technologies for decarbonization.  

Through participation in research and development projects, we are contributing to constant innovation, advancing the performance and scalability of new concepts - and enabling a virtuous circle towards climate neutrality.  

Many things are happening and, as we can see, the path of this transition is still lengthy. Yet we are heading in the right direction, thanks to a diverse array of contributions, perspectives, solutions. Here in RINA’s goZERO magazine you can explore some of them.

Carlo Luzzatto

Technology readiness for achieving net zero emissions  

Technological advancements are at the core of solving the energy trilemma: sustainability, security of energy supply and the availability of clean energy. By harnessing technology, we will be able to devise accessible, affordable solutions. 

The energy transition is by no means a linear process, and an unprecedented transformation of the energy system is required to break the link between energy and emissions.

What is the most important action to take?

Firstly, availability of clean energy must be matched with demand. Even as the share of renewables in electricity production increases, renewable energy sources often remain intermittent: supply and demand are not always aligned. 

Therefore, efficient energy storage, combined with effective distribution systems, are crucial to achieving a sustainable energy transition and reliably balancing supply and demand.

How can new and emerging energy technologies help balance the variability of renewable energy supply?  

Various crucial measures must be implemented to address this challenge. Addressing intermittency requires thoughtful technological solutions.  

One aspect to consider is storage solutions, which stand out as the most commonly cited response to balance intermittency.  

Another pivotal option is the utilization of hydrogen, offering a solution beyond hydroelectric power and batteries to balance power systems over varying durations. Balancing offer and demand of renewable energy – especially in the case of geographical areas spread around the world - may also involve the conversion of renewable electricity into hydrogen, hydrogen derivates and ultimately into alternative fuels. However, further development is necessary in various field, including ammonia crackers, LOHC, biomass gasification, electrolysis, and offshore H2 production.  

Smart grids for energy conveyance provide numerous benefits. They encompass digital solutions for supply and demand, extending beyond large-scale assets to include the demand side. Smart system versatility is crucial as smart grids can optimize the operational efficiency and utilization of transmission and grid infrastructure. Flexibility is their key feature, with networks capable of handling bidirectional energy flow. Network users can contribute energy to the grid (generated by rooftop photovoltaic panels, for example) and charge to and from batteries and fuel cells. Efficiency is supported by smart grid technologies that facilitate demand-side management, real-time adjustments in energy distribution lines and lower energy prices.

Furthermore, the trade of energy will also face major developments granted by technology progress: market-enabling communication between suppliers and consumers will be systematic and continuous, facilitating better decision-making in terms of pricing strategies on the supplier side and energy consumption on the consumer side.  

While efficient storage capacity is designed and developed, and reliable and smart grids are adopted as a key enabler of renewable sources exploitation, to be on track in the journey towards net zero emissions, GHG must still be lowered through the deployment of carbon capture utilisation and storage technologies. CCUS can be used as an intermediate measure to collect the CO2 emissions generated, eventually applying the circular economy principle to the carbon dioxide which - at least - should not increase in volume at a global scale. Reutilization of CO2, indeed, encompasses its combination low carbon H2, producing alternative synthetic energy vectors which could facilitate the transition by exploiting existing infrastructures and energy end-users’ technologies.  

In this scenario, it is imperative also for carbon capture technologies to improve and advance in performance, reliability, and efficiency.  

Harnessing technological innovation is the real game-changer for the energy transition and will play a leading role in solving the energy trilemma.

Andrea Bombardi
Carbon Reduction Excellence Executive Vice President, RINA