Towards a Cleaner World: Fuel Switching Strategies

The rise of renewable energies will lead to a massive diminishment in the consumption of fossil fuels. The considerable waste from the very inefficient electricity generation process will come to an end. The switch to cost-effective (if not free) renewable-based electricity generation will require major fuel switching strategies.

More Efficient (Smarter) Cities

By 2050, 70% of the world population will live in cities. They will consume energy in their homes and in their workplaces, and they will mostly travel within cities. Cities of the twenty-first century are therefore the key physical places where energy will be consumed. In such cities, the spectacular consumption of energy for transportation and buildings will require to be optimized.

The concept of “smart cities” (European Parliament 2014; Fabrique de la cite 2014) relies heavily on optimizing the city and its transportation infrastructure. Today, 80% of transportation corresponds to short-distance travels, mostly within cities. Such travels account for around 40% of the total energy consumption of the sector (© OECD/IEA, Transport 2009). Most smart mobility programs thus aim to reduce travel’s energy footprint within a city. These programs optimize the transportation system, with more collective transportation that reduces the energy intensity of individual transportation. They also redesign cities to reduce the need to use motorized transportation, and leverage ICTs to accelerate remote work and enable online shopping. Finally, they focus on substituting all conventional transportation with electric or carbon-free transportation. Future massive deployment of renewable energies in electricity production would help accelerate this substitution. In the end, the theoretical substitution of all short-distance travels by electric or carbon-free transportation could save up to 800 Mtoe of fossil fuels (© OECD/IEA, Transport 2009; © OECD/IEA, WEO 2012). For electric cars alone, current forecasts show a steep development. The number of electric cars could indeed reach six millions by 2020 (FS-UNEP 2016), and up to 25% of the worldwide fleet by 2040 (BNEF/Electric Vehicles 2016).

The next stage of more efficient cities regards buildings and their massive energy consumption. Of the total energy consumed in buildings, 40% comes from fossil fuels (primarily natural gas and coal). The pervasive deployment of renewable energies, such as solar energy (for heating) or geothermal energy, can help substitute these fuels; solutions already exist. Again, “smart cities” will be the ones which tackle these issues, favoring the development of distributed energy and smart grid, hence the substitution of fossil fuels consumption to electricity in buildings, as well as valuing the biodiversity potential of cities through parks, gardens, etc. The overall potential of energy that could be substituted in buildings amounts to 1100 Mtoe of primary energy (© OECD/IEA, WEO 2012).

The implementation of these concepts will naturally vary from one city to another. Some of the modern cities already offer a glimpse of what will be the cities of tomorrow. The massive use of solar energy, the deployment of cogeneration, connected transportation, electrical vehicles and even self-service bicycles are many examples of the development of cities designed with the consistent objective of becoming sustainable. The combination of these elements leads to a “smart city”. Out of the 468 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in the European Union, 240 cities were already identified as “smart” by the European Parliament (2014).

Fuel switching strategies (© OECD/IEA, Technology Industry 2009; © OECD/IEA, Transport 2009; © OECD/IEA, WEO 2012)

Fig. 5.19 Fuel switching strategies (© OECD/IEA, Technology Industry 2009; © OECD/IEA, Transport 2009; © OECD/IEA, WEO 2012)

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