INNOPATHS holds Stakeholder Event: “Towards carbon neutrality, the perspective of investors”

On the 15th of May 2019, INNOPATHS held a large stakeholder event hosted by E3-Modelling in Athens, designed to examine the investment opportunities emerging from the transition towards a low- or zero-carbon economy.

The INNOPATHS project aims to understand the challenges of decarbonisation and the innovation needed to address them and present a detailed assessment of low-carbon technologies, their uncertainties, future prospects and system characteristics. The project also aims at creating new, co-designed deep decarbonisation pathways with novel policy and innovation processes and it puts emphasis on the societal, economic and environmental dimensions of the low-carbon transition and how they can be managed.

The project was presented by Professor Laura Diaz Anadon (University of Cambridge), Elena Verdolini (Senior Scientist, CMCC) and Professor Paul Ekins (UCL, INNOPATHS coordinator). The INNOPATHS online tools were presented in the conference; in particular the “Technology Matrix” tool which includes historic and projected characteristics, and associated uncertainty, of key low-carbon technologies and can be utilized to calculate the future costs of low carbon transition, and the “Policy Evaluation Tool” which presents key evidence-based characteristics of policy instruments and mixes to encourage the low-carbon transition. Professor Ekins presented the key findings of the High Level Panel on Decarbonisation pathways that proposes priority research to achieve deep decarbonisation in all economic sectors. He also pointed out the major innovative approaches of the INNOPATHS project. Professor Pantelis Capros (NTUA) presented the model-based analysis on EU low-emission pathways that fed into the European Commission strategy “A Clean Planet for all”. He showed that deep decarbonisation of the EU energy and economic system can be achieved through the upscaling of “no-regret” options (including renewable energy, energy efficiency, advanced biofuels, electrification of mobility) but it will also require the introduction of disruptive technologies, energy carriers and business models (including hydrogen, power-to-gas, power-to-liquids, use and storage of CO2, circular economy).

Professor Laura Diaz Anadon and Dr Elena Verdolini

In the second session of the conference, chaired by IENE’s head of Energy Efficiency committee, Costas Theofylaktos, a number of Greek energy market experts and company executives participated in a round table discussion on the current and future challenges of the energy sector. There, Mr. Polymenopoulos representing HELESCO highlighted the role of ESCOs in the improvement of energy efficiency of buildings. Mr. Polychroniou representing “DEPA, gas industry and renewable gas” analyzed the prospects of decarbonised and renewable gas in the deep decarbonisation context. Mr. Papastamatiou representing “ENTEKA wind energy”, one of Greece’s pioneering wind companies, addressed the licensing boundaries in RES projects noting the low success rate of wind projects, which affects indirectly electricity prices for consumers. He referred to the key market requirements for the acceleration of the energy transition, notably the development of coherent policies, the implementation of large-scale RES projects, the capacity increase of local and international interconnections and development of large-scale storage systems. Dr. Sotiris Kapellos, representing HELPE Renewables, and HELAPCO, the Hellenic Association of Photovoltaic Companies, addressed the issue of PV investments in Greece and called for the simplification of licensing procedures and a full implementation of EU guidelines for electricity market liberalization (Target model, Balancing of RES etc.). Dr. George Ayeridis (CRES, Electromobility) presented the prospects of electrification in the transport sector with high EV deployment combined with RES-based electricity. He also stated that EVs should be seen both as a market product and as a key part of the energy transition.

Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool authors Visions of Energy Futures: Imagining and Innovating Low-Carbon Transitions

INNOPATHS consortium member, Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool has authored a recent book entitled, Visions of Energy Futures: Imagining and Innovating Low-Carbon Transitions, that uses INNOPATHS initial work and findings.

This book examines the visions, fantasies, frames, discourses, imaginaries, and expectations associated with six state-of-the-art energy systems—nuclear power, hydrogen fuel cells, shale gas, clean coal, smart meters, and electric vehicles—playing a key role in current deliberations about low-carbon energy supply and use.

Visions of Energy Futures: Imagining and Innovating Low-Carbon Transitions unveils what the future of energy systems could look like, and how their meanings are produced, often alongside moments of contestation.

Read more about it here.

INNOPATHS initial findings presented at the 24th Conference of the Parties

Dr Elena Verdolini from the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment and INNOPATHS Work Package Leader, presented initial results from the INNOPATHS project, explaining how this project aims to work with key economic and societal actors to generate new, state-of-the-art low-carbon pathways for the European Union. This presentation was part of a side event on ‘energy decarbonisation & coal phase out: financial, technological and policy drivers’ at the COP24 in conjunction with Carbon Tracker, WWF Poland and CEE Bankwatch Network.

This presentation was structured around three key INNOPATHS outputs. First, the “Technology Matrix”, an online database presenting information on the cost of low-carbon technologies and their performance, including both historic and current data, and future estimates. The key feature of this database is the collection of a wide variety of data from different data sources, and the computation of metrics to measure the uncertainty around values. The matrix will thus contribute to mapping technological improvements (and associated uncertainty) in key economic sectors, including energy, buildings and industry. It will show that many low-carbon technologies options are available in certain sectors, but also the specific technological gaps characterizing many hard-to-decarbonize sectors, including aviation, or energy-intensive manufacturing sectors such as chemicals and heavy metals. For these technologies, additional and dedicated Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment funding will need to be a priority.

The second key output is the “Policy Evaluation Tool”; an online repository of evidence on the effect of policy interventions against key metrics, such as environmental impact (i.e. emission reductions), labour market and competitiveness outcomes. The tool will become a repository of evidence on what approaches and policy instruments work, or do not work, helping policy makers to understand how best to achieve various goals related to the energy transition.

The third key output are insights from INNOPATHS researchers focusing on the financing of the decarbonization process. First, similarly to the process of industrial production, financing costs benefit from “learning-by-financing”, as lenders develop in-house abilities and experience in the selection of renewable energy projects. Second, researchers focus on the importance that public investments can play in signaling change and promoting a shift of investments away from fossil and towards low- and zero-carbon technologies. In this respect, public banks are crucial actors, which can act as catalysts for private investments.

Find out more about the conference here.

Dr Elena Verdolini explains decarbonising the energy sector

CMCC and EIEE senior researcher Elena Verdolini explains how the energy sector, the largest producer of greenhouse gases, is surprisingly one of the easiest areas to decarbonise.

Electrification is growing fast as it becomes increasingly low-carbon or carbon-free entirely. Dr Verdolini explains how variability is a major obstacle to increasing the use of renewables and goes on to talk about the best ways to tackle the increasingly difficult obstacles this sector faces.

Read the full article here.

 

INNOPATHS consortium holds second all-partner meeting

The second all-partner meeting of the INNOPATHS consortium was held on 3rd – 5th September, hosted by the University of Cambridge. The meeting brought together representatives from all project partners from 8 European countries for three days of intensive, constructive discussions on progress within the project so far, and the future direction of the research. This included a review and demonstration of prototypes of the four original ‘interactive online tools’ – the Technology Matrix, the Policy Evaluation Tool, Interactive Decarbonisation Simulator, and Low Carbon Pathways Platform – each of which will channel different collections of results from the project research, and will seek to serve different purposes for their intended users.

 

In order to ensure that the research and the online tools (along with other research and their associated outputs) will best serve the needs of policy makers, civil servants, business and civil society, the second meeting of both the INNOPATHS External Advisory Board and the INNOPATHS Innovation and Exploitation Advisory Group also took place. Members of these respective bodies, drawn from the spectrum of stakeholder groups, provided insightful advice and guidance to the research team to maintain momentum and maximise policy relevance and we head towards the second half of the INNOPATHS research programme.

INNOPATHS takes part in European Commission’s High Level Workshop

The Council has invited the Commission to come up with a proposal for a strategy for a long term EU GHG emissions reduction, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The intention of the Commission is to present a proposal before the COP24 to be held in Katowice in December.

On June 28th, the European Commission organized a High Level workshop in Brussels on the topic “R&I contribution to the strategy for long term EU greenhouse gas emissions.” The workshop aimed at identifying the lessons or conclusions which can be drawn from some key EU-funded R&I projects and activities. The objective was therefore to identify such lessons or conclusions and discuss them with members of DG Research, the EPSC, DG CLIMA, DG ENER, and the other Commission Services involved.

Elena Verdolini was asked to focus on the topic of decarbonization innovation, and two provide insights with respect to two key questions: what can we expect from decarbonization innovation? How can we ensure that it will come about? Three main messages emerged from the presentation. First, public policies should be designed to provide incentives for the development of a portfolio of low-carbon technologies rather than picking winners. Second, there is the need to manage the transitional costs associated with the process of decarbonization, especially for what concerns competitiveness and trade dynamics. Third, successful policy mixes are those which are tailored to the capability of a each country. For more details, please have a look at the presentation below, or feel free to send an email to: elena.verdolini@cmcc.it

180628_EV_Decarbonization_Innovation download

 

Professor Benjamin Sovacool and Jessica Jewell write piece for The Conversation

On Thursday 8 March 2018, Professor Benjamin Sovacool and Jessical Jewell’s study ‘Fossil fuel subsidies need to go – but what about the poorer people who rely on cheap energy?’ was published in The Conversation.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool is Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, part of the University of Sussex.  There he serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group and Director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand.

Drawing from a review he did for Ecological Economics, Benjamin has teamed up with Jessica Jewell from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis to write a piece about energy subsidies for The Conversation.

Read full publication here

 

Latest papers published by INNOPATHS

INNOPATHS is a four year EU funded research project that aims to work with key economic and societal actors to generate new, state-of-the-art low-carbon pathways for the European Union. Below is a round-up of the latest research to come from INNOPATHS.

Anadón, L.D., Baker, E., Bosetti, V. (2017) Integrating uncertainty into public energy research and development decisions, Nature 2, Article number: 17071 Free access

Geddes, A., Schmidt, T., Steffen, B. (2018) The multiple roles of state investment banks in low-carbon energy finance: An analysis of Australia, the UK and Germany, Energy Policy 115, 158–170 Free access

Steffen, B. (2018). The importance of project finance for renewable energy projects, Energy Economics 69, 280-294 post-print manuscript

Verdolini, E, Anadon, LD, Baker, ED, Bosetti, V, Reis, L. (2018) The future of energy technologies: an overview of expert elicitations.’ Review of Environmental Economics and Policy Free access

Professor Laura Diaz Anadon invited to speak at the SET Plan – The 10th Year Anniversary  in conjunction with the Central European Energy Conference in Bratislava

On Thursday 30 November, Professor Laura Diaz Anadon was invited to chair a session at the Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) Plan – CEEC 2017 Conference  in Bratislava. The conference was held under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU and was conjoined with the 10th Anniversary of the EU Strategic Energy ET Plan conference.

Professor Anadon chaired and presented at the session on the Global dimension of the Energy R&I and Patrick Child, Deputy Director General, DG RTD, European Commission gave the keynote speech.

Watch the full session here

We must accelerate transitions for sustainability and climate change, experts say

We must move faster towards a low-carbon world if we are to limit global warming to 2oC this century, experts have warned.

Changes in electricity, heat, buildings, industry and transport are needed rapidly and must happen all together, according to research from our partners at the Universities of Sussex. The new study, published in the journal Science, was co-authored by INNOPATHS’ Benjamin K. Sovacool.

To provide a reasonable (66%) chance of limiting global temperature increases to below 2oC, the International Energy Agency and International Renewable Energy Agency suggest that global energy-related carbon emissions must peak by 2020 and fall by more than 70% in the next 35 years. This implies a tripling of the annual rate of energy efficiency improvement, retrofitting the entire building stock, generating 95% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050 and shifting almost entirely towards electric cars.

This elemental challenge necessitates “deep decarbonisation” of electricity, transport, heat, industrial, forestry and agricultural systems across the world.  But despite the recent rapid growth in renewable electricity generation, the rate of progress towards this wider goal remains slow.

Moreover, many energy and climate researchers remain wedded to disciplinary approaches that focus on a single piece of the low-carbon transition puzzle. A case in point is a recent Science Policy Forum proposing a ‘carbon law’ that will guarantee that zero-emissions are reached. This model-based prescription emphasizes a single policy instrument, but neglects the wider political, cultural, business, and social drivers of low carbon transitions.

A new, interdisciplinary study published in Science presents a ‘sociotechnical’ framework that explains how these different drivers can interlink and mutually reinforce one another and how the pace of the low carbon transition can be accelerated.

Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool from the University of Sussex, a co-author on the study, says:

“Current rates of change are simply not enough. We need to accelerate transitions, deepen their speed and broaden their reach. Otherwise there can be no hope of reaching a 2 degree target, let alone 1.5 degrees. This piece reveals that the acceleration of transitions across the sociotechnical systems of electricity, heat, buildings, manufacturing, and transport requires new conceptual approaches, analytical foci, and research methods.”

The Policy Forum provides four key lessons for how to accelerate sustainability transitions.

Lesson 1: Focus on socio-technical systems rather than individual elements

Rapid and deep decarbonization requires a transformation of ‘sociotechnical systems’ – the interlinked mix of technologies, infrastructures, organizations, markets, regulations and user practices that together deliver societal functions such as personal mobility.  Previous systems have developed over many decades, and the alignment and co-evolution of their elements makes them resistant to change.

Accelerated low-carbon transitions therefore depend on both techno-economic improvements, and social, political and cultural processes, including the development of positive or negative discourses. Professor Steve Sorrell from the University of Sussex, a coauthor of the study, states: “In this policy forum we describe how transformational changes in energy and transport systems occur, and how they may be accelerated. Traditional policy approaches emphasizing a single technology will not be enough.”

Lesson 2: Align multiple innovations and systems

Socio-technical transitions gain momentum when multiple innovations are linked together, improving the functionality of each and acting in combination to reconfigure systems.  The shale gas revolution, for instance, accelerated when seismic imaging, horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracturing were combined.   Likewise, accelerated low-carbon transitions in electricity depend not only on the momentum of renewable energy innovations like wind, solar-PV and bio-energy, but also on complementary innovations including energy storage and demand response.  These need aligned and then linked so that innovations are harmonized.

Prof. EU INNOPATHS consortium researching low-carbon transitions for Europe, comments: “One of the great strengths of this study is the equal emphasis it accords to technological, social, business and policy innovation, in all of which governments as well as the private sector have a key role to play.

“European countries will become low-carbon societies not only when the required low-carbon technologies have been developed but when new business models and more sustainable consumer aspirations are driving their deployment at scale. Public policy has an enormous role to play at every step in the creation of these changed conditions.”

Lesson 3: Offer societal and business support

Public support is crucial for effective transition policies. Low-carbon transitions in mobility, agro-food, heat and buildings will also involve millions of citizens who need to modify their purchase decisions, user practices, beliefs, cultural conventions and skills. To motivate citizens, financial incentives and information about climate change threats need to be complemented by positive discourses about the economic, social and cultural benefits of low-carbon innovations.

Furthermore, business support is essential because the development and deployment of low-carbon innovations depends upon the technical skills, organizational capabilities and financial resources of the private sector. Green industries and supply chains can solidify political coalitions supporting ambitious climate policies and provide a counterweight to incumbents.  Technological progress can drive climate policy by providing solutions or altering economic interests. Shale gas and solar-PV developments, for instance, altered the US and Chinese positions in the international climate negotiations.

Lesson 4: Phase out existing systems

Socio-technical transitions can be accelerated by actively phasing out existing technologies, supply chains, and systems that lock-in emissions for decades. Professor Sovacool comments that: “All too often, analysists and even policymakers focus on new incentives, on the phasing in of low-carbon technologies. This study reminds us that phasing out existing systems can be just as important as stimulating novel innovations.”

For instance, the UK transition to smokeless solid fuels and gas was accelerated by the 1956 Clean Air Act, which allowed cities to create smokeless zones where coal use was banned. Another example is the 2009 European Commission decision to phase-out incandescent light bulbs, which accelerated the shift to compact fluorescents and LEDs. French and UK governments have announced plans to phase-out petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Moreover, the UK intends to phase out unabated coal-fired power generation by 2025 (if feasible alternatives are available).

Phasing out existing systems accelerates transitions by creating space for niche-innovations and removing barriers to their diffusion. The phase-out of carbon-intensive systems is also essential to prevent the bulk of fossil fuel reserves from being burned, which would obliterate the 2oC target. This phase-out will be challenging since it threatens the largest and most powerful global industries (e.g. oil, automobiles, electric utilities, agro-food, steel), which will fight to protect their vested economic and political interests.

Conclusion 

Deep decarbonization requires complementing model-based analysis with socio-technical research. While the former analyzes technically feasible least-cost pathways, the latter addresses innovation processes, business strategies, social acceptance, cultural discourses and political struggles, which are difficult to model but crucial in real-world transitions. As Professor Geels notes, an enduring lesson is that “to accelerate low-carbon transitions, policymakers should not only stimulate techno-economic developments, but also build political coalitions, enhance business involvement, and engage civil society.”

Additionally, the research underscores the non-technical, or social, elements of transitions.  Dr. Tim Schwanen from the University of Oxford, a coauthor, states that “the approach described in this Policy Forum demonstrates the importance of heeding insights from across the social sciences in thinking about low-carbon transitions.”

While full integration of both approaches is not possible, productive bridging strategies may enable policy strategies that are both cost-effective and socio-politically feasible.

Further links

This article was originally posted on the University of Sussex website.

Click here to read the full paper in Science