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From black to green through gray.

The energy of tomorrow | Posted on 2021-03-09 10:12

While the “Climate and Resilience” bill entered into consideration yesterday in the National Assembly, let us look for a moment on the subject of energy. What energy do we want for tomorrow? The Paris Agreement , signed in 2015, set the objective of increasing global temperatures at 1.5 ° C by the end of the century and carbon neutrality by 2050. Realistic or too ambitious?

The greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production of energy in the world are a major source of concern because they account for a lot in global warming. All private and public economic players are working to develop clean energy. But the transition will be slow. It will certainly be necessary to proceed step by step before achieving carbon-free and climate-compatible energy. Certainly, the governments' intentions are laudable and the will to proceed as quickly as possible with the abandonment of fossil fuels to fight against climate change and strengthen energy independence are going in the right direction, but the political speeches on the matter are similar often to the effects of announcements. In reality, there is a good chance that the big ecological evening will not be for tomorrow.

Law n ° 2015 - 992 relating to the energy transition for green growth (LTECV) was published in the Official Journal on August 18, 2015. Here is a brief reminder of the points it sets out:

  • “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030 and divide greenhouse gas emissions by four between 1990 and 2050 (factor 4) . The trajectory is specified in the carbon budgets;
  • Reduce final energy consumption by 50% in 2050 compared to the 2012 reference by targeting an intermediate objective of 20% by 2030;
  • Reduce the primary energy consumption of fossil fuels by 30% in 2030 compared to the 2012 reference ;
  • Increase the share of renewable energies to 23% of gross final energy consumption in 2020 and to 32% of gross final energy consumption in 2030 ;
  • Increase the share of nuclear power in electricity production to 50% by 2025 ;
  • Achieve an energy performance level that complies with “low consumption building” standards for the entire housing stock by 2050;
  • Fight against fuel poverty ;
  • Affirm a right of access for all to energy without excessive cost in relation to household resources;
  • Reduce the quantity of waste sent to landfill by 50% by 2025 and gradually decouple economic growth and the consumption of raw materials. "

Today, 80% of the French economy operates on oil. It is found in all sectors. To think that by 2050 we will no longer be using oil to generate electricity is unrealistic. Studies show that oil production is expected to start declining from 2030 and even though the amounts used in 2050 are expected to be out of step with current amounts, oil will still be available in 2050.

Progressivity will therefore be essential to switch from black gold to green electricity. The most realistic intermediate step appears to be natural gas. Our societies are indeed at a turning point. We want to get rid of polluting fossil fuels in favor of clean energy. If the theory is simple, the practical application is not. During the cold peaks in winter when electricity demands jump, France buys electricity in Europe, in countries that still use coal-fired power stations like Germany or Poland. Nice inconsistency. And electricity only represents 25% of the energy consumed in France per year. It would therefore seem that before arriving at all electric - which in itself raises other problems - we are forced to adopt different sources such as natural gas. Although it is also a fossil fuel, gas remains preferable to coal. Obviously, this is the opinion held by some major players in the sector such as Total's CEO, Mr Patrick Pouyanné , who is convinced that one of the major climate issues in the world for the years to come will be to pass, initially, from oil to natural gas. Certain regions of the world such as Europe will tackle this task more easily than China or India for example. Indeed, if Europe still has coal-fired power stations which it will manage to get rid of without too much difficulty, it will not be the same in Asia, where many countries still only have this means. If all coal-fired power stations were transformed into gas-fired power stations, there is no doubt that the objectives of the Paris Agreement would be easily achieved. As this seems impractical, the transition will take time.

The energy transition is underway and the world is preparing for the post-oil era. This transition phase will surely see the use of a multitude of energy sources to hope to find a robust and sustainable model that will meet the challenges of supply, prices and the environment. What solution will we adopt at the end of the day? All electric? Difficult to say because this trajectory also brings its share of questions. First of all, how to produce it? France wishes to take advantage of its large existing fleet and seems to bet on nuclear power when other countries choose, on the contrary, to dismantle their power plants. In this case, what do we do with the increasing amounts of waste that will have to be stored somewhere? Pollution against another pollution?

Other means are possible to produce energy; wind power (off-shore or on land) or solar power, for example. Good alternatives but will they be enough to supply an entire country in times of high demand. Another major obstacle that will have to be overcome is that of storing the electricity produced. In addition to being extremely expensive, the task is complex to implement, especially in large quantities. Today we do not know how to propose an economically viable model, however many private actors are stepping up their research. Other public figures, like Bill Gates , advance hypotheses: mini-power stations with modular reactors. Why not. But while waiting for these inventions to emerge, we will need a complementary source of energy. From light gray to go from black to green.

Finally, as is customary in a market economy, demand will shape supply and supply will change demand. In 2050, the energy situation in our countries will surely be the result of the various measures, incentives and infrastructures proposed. by governments combined with the acts of purchase and consumption of the economic actors of our societies. If all the conditions are met, we will have no difficulty or regret in taking the plunge.

Posted on 2021-03-09 10:12

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