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New Energy World
New Energy World embraces the whole energy industry as it connects and converges to address the decarbonisation challenge. It covers progress being made across the industry, from the dynamics under way to reduce emissions in oil and gas, through improvements to the efficiency of energy conversion and use, to cutting-edge initiatives in renewable and low carbon technologies.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will accelerate action on sustainable energy and ensure that in the next five years more than half of the tipping points for crucial green technologies will have been met, according to a new report published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Systemiq.
The report states that the deployment of low-carbon technologies is being facilitated and accelerated by AI and digital enablers, with key technologies expected to reach tipping points before 2030, which in turn will trigger their scaling-up to mass market. This will transform energy, transport, production, the built environment, land-use and ocean systems over the next 25 years, says the study.
Noting that ‘the race is already taking shape and will drive a wave of creative destruction’, the report forecasts that light road transport, fugitive emissions, building heating, food and agriculture will reach tipping points by 2025, while trucking, aviation, land use change, shipping, steel and cement are predicted to reach tipping points by 2030.
A significant tipping point has already occurred in the energy sector, when the levellised cost of energy generation (LCOE) for solar and wind power fell below that of new coal and gas in 2018, says the report. A second tipping point, whereby the LCOE includes the cost of short-term battery storage, is expected to be reached in the US this year, quickly followed by other countries. This rapid cost reduction led solar and wind to account for more than 75% of energy capacity additions globally in 2021.
Similar trends are being seen in other sectors, says the study. Unsubsidised battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to reach cost parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in all light vehicle segments by 2025–2026 in major regions. The same is happening with agricultural fertilisers, where pioneering projects have brought down costs of green ammonia and are enabling the largest fertiliser producers to launch industrial-scale plants this year. Green ammonia production is now projected to be economically viable within the next decade, says the study. Meanwhile, green hydrogen, vital for a range of industries and activities, is also taking off, with policies and major projects expanding rapidly around the world.
The prospects for AI are even more wide-ranging and are forecast to further accelerate green technology. AI is increasingly recognised as the ‘next general-purpose technology, boosting general intelligence, accelerating tipping points and the deployment of breakthrough technologies across economic sectors – such as fusion and solar, quantum chemistry, alternative protein design and many others’, states the report.
AI is also forecast to have ‘increasingly powerful implications for data analytics, modelling and predictions, and for ramping up efficiency and productivity in production processes and supply chains’. These applications are already being used in energy demand management, for example, where AI is critical to improving prediction of demand. ‘Al-based approaches not only increase short-term system agility (eg enabling batteries and demand management to act as virtual power plants) but also enable longer-term demand and supply matching across the energy system,’ the report notes.
Meanwhile, AI applications are increasingly being integrated into industrial systems to improve energy efficiency and reduce peak demand, as well as being used to maximise renewables in meeting peak demand.
The report also says drivers of technology transformation, such as AI, will ‘redraw the map over time’, noting that ‘while industrial location in the past was shaped by endowments of coal, oil, iron ore and other raw materials relative to demand markets, future choices – factoring in the possibilities of direct and indirect electrification of industrial processes – will give greater weight to the availability of reliable, low-cost, low-volatility renewable power’.