Power and fuels
The real game changer in future power generation will be how governments can encourage low-carbon energy transitions at pace and scale while “keeping the lights on” and improving the lives of their citizens.
Established technology will play an essential role in smoothing out this transition. One example: natural gas can be seen as a transition path to fully renewable energy. Along the way, the Internet of Things can help reduce the risk of methane leakage in natural gas processing. Methane is far more potent in driving atmospheric global warming than CO2.
The end goal will require a rapid increase in wind, solar and geothermal power supply. Progress is happening at pace; the world is on course to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the past 20.3 But the real game changer will be being able to store and distribute that renewable energy when needed.
Technology also could power a consumer-driven decentralization of energy production, but governments face challenges in helping create a future where citizens are not reliant on a central power grid.
Small-scale, demand-driven technologies like solar capture, wind harnessing, and battery storage will play a role, as will distributed energy resources and smart grids. In addition, car batteries in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) mode can absorb excess renewable energy and increase power grid flexibility.
But more than technology will be required. The EY Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index indicates that stronger regulatory support with subsidies and tax credits is needed to improve grid flexibility and predictability for future price realization.
Manufacturing companies will require innovative approaches across the value chain to achieve sustainability goals. While several green technologies are available, specific incentives will be required to make them more economically viable.
Waste sorting and identification are crucial for industrial companies to reduce environmental pollution. Leading companies need to take accountability for their environmental impact over the product lifecycle and establish circular manufacturing ecosystems. Repurposing old equipment with new components or processes can help reduce equipment wastage and costs, while offering take-back services can extend product lifecycles and build customer loyalty. Material passports, which document all the materials used in a product or construction, can aid manufacturers in achieving circularity.
Chemical companies are setting carbon-neutrality goals and prioritizing decarbonization through the efficient use of materials. They also are increasing the use of alternative energy sources (e.g., hydrogen, renewable energy), as well as investing in biorefining technologies such as H2ACE, which can capture carbon.
Sustainable sourcing can help companies reduce their indirect emissions by focusing on renewable materials in the chemical industry. Advanced materials and chemicals such as polymeric materials, biomaterials, composites and nanomaterials are becoming more critical for long-term environmental protection, cost and sustainability. Companies can replace existing input materials with less toxic and renewable materials, such as bio-based raw materials, which have a longer service life in production. Sustainable plastics can be either biodegradable or made from biological materials, such as bio-PET, which uses fermented leftovers from sugar manufacturing to produce soft drink bottles.