Energy Efficiency of New Technology Can Improve
By Paul Floren, Global Communication Leader, GE Power Conversion
With the United Nations COP21 meeting in full swing, all eyes are on global climate change targets and policies. As energy production accounts for two thirds of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of carbon emissions in the energy sector is of paramount importance.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently released its latest World Energy Outlook report (November 2015). This follows the previous report released in June, which revealed some of the key pillars that are being focused on, during the hopefully successful COP21:
Increasing energy efficiency in industry, construction and transportation
Continued investment and innovation in renewable energy technologies
Reducing methane emissions in oil and gas production
What has become clear throughout this process is the vital role energy efficiency is playing in achieving vital carbon emission reductions. In fact, the latest report from the IEA suggests that energy efficiency of new equipment bought worldwide in 2030 can be increased by a further 11 percent, whether this is across transport, or the manufacturing of energy intensive products such as steel or plastics. While 2030 may seem like a long way into the future, many steps are already been taken to increase efficiencies across multiple industries, with technology being the key driver. Below are two key examples.
Emissions reductions and fuel efficiency in the marine sector
Achieving carbon emission reduction goals will require hard work and the introduction of new technologies to increase energy efficiency in industry, construction and transportation. Progress has already been made on this, with efficiency measures in OECD countries reducing demand growth to 60 percent of what would otherwise be expected.
The sheer scale of the international shipping industry, however, means that greenhouse gas emissions are high. Vessel owners are already taking a number of steps to reduce emissions through initiatives such as installing electric power and propulsion systems, and switching to alternative fuels, which can dramatically reduce fuel consumption and operating costs.
Electric propulsion is not new – it has been used in ships since the early 1900s – originally to facilitate the reversal of the ship propeller at a time of limited gearbox manufacturing capability, but its importance is even more crucial today as fleet costs soar and emissions targets become more stringent.
And its use is proven, with the U.S. Navy predicting lifetime fuel savings of around $250 million through the implementation of electric propulsion on its amphibious assault ship, the USS Makin Island – drastically reducing the carbon emissions emitted through decreased use of fuel. Even upgrading existing systems such as dynamic positioning can save operators up to 10 percent in fuel usage which over time can significantly reduce a ship’s carbon footprint.
Increasing innovation and continued investment in renewables
According to the IEA report, renewables accounted for nearly half of all new power generation capacity in 2014. Investment remains strong at $270 billion and is set to increase to $400 billion by 2030. Although considered zero carbon, there are still efficiency measures which can be taken across the renewables industry to increase output and reduce the cost of energy.
Advances in inverter technology, for example, are making substantial contributions to lowering the cost of solar production, with 1.5kV inverters now on the market that can help increase output capabilities by up to 50 percent compared to the industry standard 1kV inverters. Technologies such as this are set to contribute to global solar capacity reaching 930GW by 2040.
It is critical that we get the future of energy right, but the journey to get there is as important as the destination itself. With the measures proposed by the IEA and the various ways in which we are working towards meeting these proposals, we have based our journey on solid ground which gives us the confidence of reaching our destination and meeting stringent environmental targets.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.