I came across John Armstrong’s book while scouring online for additional material on the energy transition, after completing an online course on Carbon Capture and Storage.
As stated by the author, the aim of the book is to “take the reader through a possible future for energy generation, transportation and utilisation, seeking to make bold calls on what energy will look like by 2030 and beyond”. The focus of the book is primarily the UK perspective. This is indeed pertinent as the UK was the first major economy to legislate for net zero greenhouse gas emission contributions by 2050 (read more about it here).
As at 2019, the estimated global CO2 production was about 33 giga tonnes per year. Due to lockdowns and restrictions in economic activity, there was an estimated 2 giga tonne reduction in emissions. In an attempt to estimate the effect of the pandemic on the climate change challenge, the author compares his 2019 and 2020 carbon footprint figures. He saw an overall 30% reduction in his personal carbon footprint between 2019 and 2020. There is also a good discussion on the potential changes in energy consumption as a result of changes in lifestyle post-pandemic (e.g. more working from home, less air travel, more online shopping etc).
The book covers a wide range of energy sources; from the rapidly developing renewable sources such as wind, solar energy to those which require significant improvement in economics to promote widespread adoptions (e.g. tidal, wave and geothermal energy). It was also interesting to note that fossil fuels still account for over 70% of the world energy production by 2040 in many optimistic energy scenarios. Hence, a lot of attention would be required for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies, as well as alternative production processes for petrochemical products (including medical goods such as anaesthetics and antiseptics).
Of course, no discussion on the energy transition is complete without hydrogen. It highlights the fact that the hydrogen production process really determines how environmentally sustainable it is. If you have ever been confused by the different colours of hydrogen (black, blue, brown, green, pink, yellow and turquoise hydrogen), it is a code to describe the hydrogen production process (read more about it here). The focus should be on green hydrogen and blue hydrogen in order to achieve net zero carbon emission targets.
A key message running through the book is that energy is deeply complex and interrelated – it is not just an engineering challenge but a multidimensional social, political and economic one. Thus, the discourse on a wide range of aspects including changes required to air and space travel, heating, chemicals such as ammonia and the use of fifth generation heat. It also highlights the effects of the energy transition on existing utility infrastructure, citing the steam trains example. He also attempts to predict some black swan events in the area of solar energy, hydrogen and battery development.
The book is definitely one to pick up to get a good overview of the energy industry and the potential effects and factors to consider in the energy transition. What are your thoughts on the energy transition? Do you think the effects of COVID-19 are accelerating or delaying the energy transition?
Thank you for reading,