The solution to the Energy Trilemma

Moving towards a successful energy transition means facing numerous complexities, the most important of which are summed up by the 'Energy Trilemma'. These are the three main challenges we face in achieving an optimal transition: energy safety, environmental sustainability, social equity.

These three aspects involve crucial issues such as the effective management of the energy supply, which must ensure delivery, reliability, and flexibility in response to changing demand. This is in addition to ensuring the very survival of mankind in the face of climate change. All this must be done without leaving anyone behind, achieving inclusiveness without too much social cost.

Recent data on this last topic shows that achieving net-zero emissions could eliminate 6 million jobs in Europe between now and 2050. Up to 18 million people could need training and transition support.

Finding the right balance between these elements will be essential and there is not one simple answer. Not only must we consider all solutions, but technologies must be evaluated and adopted by taking into account the entire production chain and not just individual links. It is counterproductive, for example, to focus on a technology that creates interdependence between countries in the sourcing of raw materials.

The key is to have a multifaceted view of the solutions, a view that embraces both the entire supply chain and the transversality of the possible applications of the technologies we choose to develop, so that we truly reap the maximum benefits.

The deeper we go into the energy transition, the more it becomes clear that know-how will be indispensable. Even more fundamental will be having an industrial ecosystem capable of embracing knowledge across the entire value chain.

To 'goZERO' has become imperative in order to deliver a sustainable society for the long term and a viable planet for future generations. We have to move swiftly to achieve the ambitious goals we have set to tackle the trilemmas that lie ahead. This can only be done by applying the overall vision and strategy that has long distinguished our industry, and which has rightly earned it a reputation for excellence.

Ugo Salerno
Chairman and CEO, RINA

Technology: at the heart of the energy transition

Reducing emissions is the ultimate goal of the energy transition, which must be rooted in the use of the most suitable and effective technologies, together with consideration of their socio-economic and geopolitical impact.

The energy transition is a journey which will be determined by time, policy and technological progress. The voyage must align with national goals and international commitments, while tapping into mature technologies which meet the market’s needs in a sustainable fashion.

The path to ‘goZERO’ is a perfect combination of these three streams.

Operative issues should be resolved in the short term with mature technologies, relying on energy efficiency, energy saving from process optimization, and the benefits of digitalization.

Tactical issues have to be addressed on a medium-term basis with high-TRL technologies, while a long-term strategic plan is built around the development of new technologies.

The challenge is significant and to achieve higher decarbonization targets all viable technologies, whether mature or under development, must be explored and assessed.

Indeed, the destination will not be reached through the use of a single technology. Phasing out fossil fuels in favor of renewables and alternative fuels (bio and syn), adopting cleaner energy vectors such as hydrogen and ammonia, establishing a mature and effective CO2 value chain, both for utilization and storage, and developing the present and next generation of nuclear technologies: only a powerful mix of these solutions will achieve full decarbonization.

Technological progress will be governed by sustainability targets and objectives, which will push advancement in the various sectors, whether its power generation or energy storage, transport and mobility, or manufacturing.

But the value of technological readiness cannot be underestimated; sustainability and climate change awareness have started to play a major role in business. The smart route to energy transition is the deployment of the right technology at the right time.

While climate change is already affecting our economy - with both market forces and ethics shaping the path to decarbonization - the need for sustainability will ultimately determine our choices when it comes to technologies.

We must combine the adoption of mature technologies on a large scale with continuous research and development into new ones which are suitable for the long term.

If 'goZERO' is truly our ambition, it is through the avoidance of greenhouse gases as byproducts of anthropogenic activities that we will succeed. This will require even more disruptive technologies.

Today the paradigm is to reduce CO2 emissions; tomorrow it will be to eliminate the production of CO2 altogether.

I would like to thank all the colleagues and our distinguished guests for their valuable contributions to RINA’s first ever magazine dedicated to the energy transition. 

Andrea Bombardi
Executive Vice President Carbon Reduction Excellence, RINA