Less than 5% of our world-wide energy consumption is renewable. Targets for drastic CO2 emission reduction as set by the Paris agreement are approaching fast. The global consensus is that we should shift our primary energy source from fossil fuels, oil and natural gas to renewable sources such as wind, solar (photovoltaic), geothermal, bio-based or any other form of renewable electricity.
95% of all industrial, transport and residential appliances use energy carriers such as liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons derived from fossil fuel, oil and natural gas. The mission is to replace these fossil hydrocarbons with electrical batteries or hydrogen (H2), alternative energy carriers used to store renewable electricity.
These alternative energy carriers are far less energy-dense than the hydrocarbons we use today, and it takes time to redesign and produce energy-efficient appliances and make major changes to transportation facilities, energy grids and gas transportation networks.
While positive change is being realized in sectors like electric vehicles, it’s far less obvious in other sectors such as the aviation industry, long-distance transportation or the chemical industry.
We can speed up the transition process to 100% renewable electricity if we can convert renewable electricity into renewable hydrocarbons (renewable fuels). This would negate the need to change appliances as these renewable hydrocarbons would be backward compatible with all appliances that use fossil hydrocarbons today.
Another advantage of renewable hydrocarbons is its tremendous storage potential. Renewable sources such as solar and wind are intermittent and depend on weather conditions. The challenge is no longer to produce renewable electricity but rather to store and transport it over large distances. The existing fossil industry relies on an enormous infrastructure to store and transport fossil hydrocarbons. We could re-use and repurpose these storage and transport facilities for renewable hydrocarbons.
Converting renewable electricity to renewable hydrocarbons would also greatly boost investments in renewable electricity sources. The existing system cannot store large amounts of intermittent sources of renewable electricity, which hampers investment. We can help solve this by introducing large power-to-renewable hydrocarbon facilities which can manage the intermittent nature of solar and wind.
Ending the exploitation of fossil fuel, oil and natural gas is the first step. The next step cleaning the excessive amounts of CO2 emitted during the past 150 years of industrial activity. With the technology we use to extract CO2 from ambient air, we can bring the level of CO2 in the atmosphere back to a pre-industrial level and eliminate – once and for all – the cause of global climate change.