Global warming and climate change have become one of the most concerning and crucial issues in the 21st century. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations have also continuously emphasised the importance of affordable and clean energy, climate action and life on land, and net zero planning is an important cornerstone to achieve sustainable goals.
Taiwan and many countries in the world have announced the goal of a net zero plan by 2050, and strive to achieve the goal of comprehensive renewable energy supply and zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, net zero planning cannot be done by just following the script, it requires delicate thinking of adapting measures to local conditions and comprehensively considering regional factors to achieve effective emission reduction.
Dr. Cheng-TaChu, who has participated in sustainable planning in Taiwan, modelled decarbonization strategies for every countries in the world, and now working at Emirates Water and Electricity as Modelling Expert in United Arab Emirates, was invited to an interview with “The Icons” to reveal how Europe, the Middle East and East Asia implement the net zero planning policy!
There is no simple strategy for all
Looking around the world, the geographical environment and natural resource reserves of different countries are very different, and thus difficult to generalise a simple decarbonization strategy. Even the policy framework and business environment can create big differences. Dr. Chu took Europe and the United States electricity market as examples. The electricity market in Europe is completely liberalised to create a most cost-effective environment ; the electricity market in the United States is also liberalised, but there is relatively more focus on reliability. For example, the monitoring interval is more delicate, which is every 5 minutes.
“Policymakers in Taiwan shouldn’t simply copy the strategy from either Germany’s or the U.S.’ experience,” Dr. Chu explained.
With the limited geographical environment in East Asia, net zero planning requires great wisdom
Speaking of East Asia, Dr. Chu took Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea as examples. He pointed out that in the past two years, the three countries have all been in line with international standards and proposed the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, due to geographical constraints, he admitted: “This is quite challenging.”
Take for example solar energy, the general practice is that hillsides with slopes more than 30° are considered not suitable for solar panels. However, more than 70% of the land in Taiwan is such hillsides and mountains, and the situation in Japan and South Korea is similar. In addition to the slope, solar energy has to consider other cost-effectiveness issues as well. Dr. Chu pointed out: “There is a huge difference on solar energy yield and generation pattern between northern and southern Taiwan”
Dr. Chu also cited offshore wind power as another example. Offshore wind farm development needs to consider more factors, such as water depth, seabed, shipping routes, fishery activity and the flying safety. More importantly, considering its generation complementarity to other variable renewable generation.
Singapore an extreme and wise example
. Resource availability is always the biggest constraint for energy development. Dr. Chu took Singapore as an example. Singapore is a small country in size and lacks land for renewable energy development. To achieve net zero, it has taken a different approach of building an electric cable that stretches thousands of kilometres to import solar energy from the sunny areas of northern Australia.
“Although the cable requires significant investment and the long transmission creates power loss and reliability issues, it is still overall cost-effective, which is a very smart approach,” Dr. Chu added.
Water-Energy nexus in the UAE
After talking about East Asia, Dr. Chu mentioned the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, “The UAE’s net zero carbon reduction plan may break our impression of the Middle East because water resource is extremely precious”
Middle East countries lack water resources and rely heavily on desalination plants to generate water . The UAE plans to reach net zero by 2050, and the most critical action is to replace the water distillers in desalination plants that burn natural gas with reverse osmosis units that rely on only electricity. “This electricity can be provided by renewable energy which is tremendously abundant in the Middle East.”
Traditional energy is no longer reliable, shifting to indigenous renewable energy is ongoing
Finally, Justin mentioned the role that renewable energy can play, from the angle of the reliability of traditional energy.
Justin pointed out, “Take natural gas as an example. During the Ukraine-Russian war, Russia cut off the supply of natural gas to Europe, which led to soaring natural gas prices and electricity prices in Europe. As a consequence, Germany had to delay the decommission of three nuclear power plants, and the Netherlands has reconsidered the previous decision on closing all gas fields by 2025.”
In Taiwan, due to the limitation of the natural gas storage capacity, the power and gas supply will be seriously affected if the natural gas is not shipped by sea for more than seven days.”How to use renewable energy to make up for the loopholes caused by traditional energy sources is a direction we can think about” Dr. Chu concluded with this.
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