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Paving the path to a sustainable future: The shift to renewable energy and decarbonisation

Paving the path to a sustainable future: The shift to renewable energy and decarbonisation

By Damilola Agboola

Climate experts all agree that we must be more responsible for our environment to ensure a sustainable future for Mother Earth, stem the tide of global warming, and curb climate change.

A couple of initiatives have been made to help build a sustainable world, including preserving biodiversity, preserving estuaries, introducing electric vehicles, heat pumps, carbon capture, clean cooking, reducing plastic waste, encouraging recycling, and increasing access to and use of clean energy in electricity.

From almost exclusively burning fossil fuels to generating electricity, a new report by Ember on annual electricity data for 2023 shows that the world generates, for the first time, 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, with solar being the major provider of the growth.

Read also: Nigeria signs MOUs to unlock 500MW renewable energy for rural communities

The report states that despite an increase in renewable generation that was also a peak in carbon emissions in the electricity sector due to the 2023 drought, which impacted hydropower generation, fossil fuels compensated for this shortfall. IEA in its Landmark report Net Zero Roadmap projects the demand for coal, oil, and Natural gas is expected to peak in this decade which gives a positive signal of no further increase in emission from fossil fuel beyond this decade.

Grid modernization, growing numbers of AI data centres, and electrification of more day-to-day activities are leading to large-scale transmission projects and pushing demand growth for electricity. As agreed by world leaders in COP28, the power sector is set to decarbonize by 2033 for OECD countries and by 2045 for the rest of the world.

The world awaits the scaling of innovative decarbonization strategies from other sectors, like manufacturing, aviation, construction, and green steel, which would result in great emissions reductions. As seen in the power sector, it is believed that power sector emissions contribute one-third of global emissions.

RE100s are committing to ambitious sustainability goals, with Science-Based Target Initiatives (SBTi) to cut carbon emissions, and large energy corporate consumers like Google aim for 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030, after matching 100 percent of their global annual electricity consumption with renewable energy, which sets a great landmark in corporate renewable energy procurement.

They are also integrating energy efficiency measures like demand shifting, into data centre operations. The use of carbon-free electricity and renewable energy purchasing certificates has been on the rise, and it has become increasingly possible to decarbonize the grid and achieve grid parity with the support of virtual plants powered by different clean energy technologies, mainly solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy.

The transport sector is getting more decarbonized, with improvements in battery technologies and the development of supercharging capacity and infrastructure driving up the uptake of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Standard model EVs now offer over 300 miles of drive range at full charge, reducing range anxiety.

Read also: Nigeria can tap coastal tourism, renewable energy to develop blue economy – Afolabi

Despite EVs achieving benefits within two years, there is still significant work to boost adoption beyond its current level. Advancements in battery chemistry are leading to positive changes in the capacity and price of batteries for battery energy storage systems and EVs.

We are moving towards an interesting point of energy sustainability, where any machine powered by fossil fuel can also be powered by a battery charged by cleaner sources.

Addressing climate action with more urgency, more capital investments, energy information democratisation, and increased political support for climate solutions in terms of policy, commercial incentive mechanisms, and flexible solutions holds huge possibilities for the future of energy transition.