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Getting Near ZeroINTERACTIVE ENERGY SCENARIOS TOOL: Explore Decarbonizing the Global Energy System
Climate change poses a daunting and long-term challenge. Humans have caused climate change by relying on carbon-intensive energy sources (like fossil fuels). To help steer the planet's climate back on track, we'll have to revolutionize the global energy system. This interactive tool allows you to create your own global energy scenario within technologically feasible approaches. This is a “waving a magic wand” exercise in that you will be able to alter the present world energy system instantly rather than a realistic projection over time. In four steps, you'll 1) get familiar with the current energy system, 2) explore opportunities for efficiency improvements, 3) experiment with greater electrification of the energy system, and 4) choose energy sources and their amount. At the bottom of Step 4 you will see the results of Your Energy Scenario in changing the total energy needed, an estimate of how this affects cost, and how much closer to 'Near Zero' carbon emissions you can get. If the world proceeded from your scenario, you will see how many years before emissions exceed the carbon budget for a 1.5 deg C change in global average temperature.
Step 1: Current World Energy System
First let's look at the how energy is currently supplied and utilized. Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) provide the majority of the world's Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES). Renewable energy sources (like solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal) make up about 13% of primary energy. The remaining supply is about 4.7% from nuclear energy. The primary energy is then utilized by four sectors: the industrial sector (which includes production of food, chemicals, iron/steel, mining, construction, forestry, etc.) takes over half of the world’s primary energy. The remainder is split between residential (household heating, cooling, lighting, consumer products, etc.), commercial (heating, cooling, lighting, refrigeration, computers of offices, stores, hospitals, schools, etc.), and the transportation sector (all road, rail, air, water and pipeline needs).
Step 2: Efficiency Improvements
Advanced technologies and improved system designs can result in more efficient energy usage resulting in energy savings. Improving efficiency saves how much primary energy you need from the start! Use the sliders below to explore what end-use energy savings are available in each sector by implementing existing advances. In the next step you'll be able to explore additional energy savings possible through switching to electric and renewable energy. Note the sliders have a colored zone corresponding to each sector. The range for efficiency improvement in this Beta version is limited by the references cited, but will be expanded in future versions of the Interactive Energy Scenarios Tool.
Commercial (45% improvement)
Industrial (45% improvement)
Residential (45% improvement)
Transportation (45% improvement)
Step 3: Electrification of Sectors
Most energy is delivered to end-uses by electric grids or by burning fuels directly. Electrifying more of the energy system can be both your best friend and worst enemy in trying to save energy. Electrification can result in needing to produce more primary energy if the electricity comes from a thermal to electric conversion such as a coal fired power plant. Thermal to electric conversions yield only about 33% of the primary energy as electricity. On one hand, you can save energy by increasing electrification AND supplying that electric energy with renewable energy sources. On the other hand, you actually need to produce more primary energy if you increase electrification but continue to supply the majority of that energy with either fossil fuels or nuclear. Nuclear doesn’t have the same carbon emissions penalty as conventional fossil fuel power plants. Use the sliders below to determine how much of Your Energy Scenario will be supplied by electric vs. non-electric energy, and of that electric energy the balance between renewables vs. non-renewables. This will set targets for how much of Your Energy Scenario will be supplied by a) non-electric sources, b) electric non-renewables, and c) electric renewables. In Step 4 you'll choose specific energy sources to meet these targets.
Commercial (45% Electric)
(45% Electric Renewable)
Industrial (45% Electric)
(45% Electric Renewable)
Residential (45% Electric)
(45% Electric Renewable)
Transportation (45% Electric)
(45% Electric Renewable)
Step 4: Choosing Energy Sources
In Steps 2 and 3, you changed how much total primary energy you need to supply, as well as what percentage of that energy comes from electric renewable energy, electric non-renewable energy, and non-electric energy (direct fuels). Now it's time to choose how to supply that energy using the many different energy sources available. Some energy sources can be used as electric sources, some as direct fuels, and some as both. Note that in this step the bar graphs have red target lines indicating your target energy levels based on your choices from Steps 2 and 3. By using the sliders you will be able to build up to or pull down the total energy in each of the 3 energy source types (non-electric/direct fuel energy vs. electric non-renewable energy vs. electric renewable energy). Meet your red target lines, and see what the impacts of your energy scenario are on global energy system costs and emissions!
Non-Electric Sources (45 TWh)
Coal (Non-Electric) $ (45 TWh)
Oil (Non-Electric) $$ (45 TWh)
Gas (Non-Electric) $$ (45 TWh)
Biomass (Non-Electric) $ (45 TWh)
Non-Renewable Electric Sources (45 TWh)
Coal (Electric) $$$ (45 TWh)
Oil (Electric) $$$$ (45 TWh)
Gas (Electric) $$ (45 TWh)
Nuclear $$$ (45 TWh)
Renewable Electric Sources (45 TWhe)
Solar $$$ (45 TWhe)
Wind $$$ (45 TWhe)
Hydro $$ (45 TWhe)
Ocean $$$$$ (45 TWhe)
Geothermal $$$ (45 TWhe)
Biomass (Electric) $$$ (45 TWhe)
Based on the New Target TPES you set in Step 2 + Step 3 and the mix of sources you picked in Step 4 to reach your targets here are the outcomes for your energy scenario.
Total Primary Energy
Carbon Budget Implications
At your Energy Scenario's current rate of emissions, global emissions will exceed the carbon budget for 1.5°C warming in
In December 2015, 196 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement, with the aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To meet this ambitious goal, we will need to cap total historical global carbon emissions at 614 GtC. As of the end of 2015, 548 GtC had already been emitted, leaving only 66 GtC left to emit in the carbon budget! At current rates of annual emissions, we'll exceed the 1.5°C carbon budget within 6 years. How many years of emissions created by Your Energy Scenario would use up the remaining 1.5°C carbon budget?
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