Q&A: Ita Kettleborough, Deputy Director, Energy Transitions Commission
Published 27th July 2021
By Sarah Casey, Portfolio Director, Climate Council
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the Energy Transitions Commission and what role does it play?
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) is a global coalition of leaders from across the energy landscape committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century in order to limit global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C. Our Commissioners come from a range of organisations – energy producers, energy intensive industries, technology providers, finance players and environmental NGOs – which operate across developed and developing countries and play different roles in the energy transition. This diversity of viewpoints informs our work: our analyses are developed with a systems perspective through extensive exchanges with experts and practitioners. Our ambition is to inform the decisions of public and private decisionmakers and support the leaders at the forefront of climate action to speed up the deployment of low and zero-carbon solutions.
Q. What does the ETC view as the primary route to decarbonising the economy and why?
The ETC sees direct electrification as the key to decarbonising many sectors of the economy. Transitioning to clean electricity as the main source of final energy represents the cheapest and most efficient route to a net-zero economy. The rapidly falling costs of renewables and storage solutions make it possible to achieve the required massive expansion of clean power systems at low cost. In our recent report,
Making Clean Electrification Possible: 30 years to electrify the global economy the ETC sets out why it is essential but also feasible and affordable to multiply the size of the global power system fivefold while shifting to renewable-based electricity provision.
Q. What about in heavy industries where electrification cannot suffice? Is this where clean hydrogen has a role to play?
Clean hydrogen will play a complementary role to decarbonise sectors where direct electrification is likely to be technologically very challenging or prohibitively expensive, such as in steel production and long-distance shipping. A net-zero GHG emissions economy by mid-century will likely need to use about 500 to 800 million tonnes of clean hydrogen per annum, a 5-7-fold increase compared to hydrogen use today. Green hydrogen, produced via the electrolysis of water, is likely to be the most cost-competitive and, therefore, the major production route in the long-term due to falling renewable electricity and electrolyser equipment costs. It could account for approximately 85% of total production by 2050. Strong public policy support and visionary private investment are needed to drive clean hydrogen growth at the fast pace this requires.
Q. Is a Net-Zero economy possible by 2050?
A net-zero global economy is technically and economically possible by mid-century at a total cost of less than 0.5% of global GDP. But action in the next decade is crucial; we must accelerate the pace of change – otherwise, it will be too late.
Q. What three things do you think we should prioritise in the next 10 years to ensure we have a chance of meeting 2050 emission reduction targets?
Firstly, accelerate the deployment of proven zero-carbon solutions to enable the clean electrification of the economy. Secondly, create the right policy and investment environment through policies, regulations and work with financial institutions to channel and de-risk investment. Finally, bring the next wave of zero-carbon technologies for ‘harder-to-abate’ sectors to market – so they can be deployed in the 2030s and 2040s.
For further information about the Energy Transitions Commission visit their website: https://www.energy-transitions.org/