Since the onset of the Economic Revolution, several important milestones have been covered in energy transition. Today, technologies are available that will advance the transition till 2030. Despite that, it is speculated that even in 2050, major source of all primary energy would still be non-renewable energy.
To change this, the solution is either not yet available in the market or is too expensive. Suffice to say, there are still major technology challenges to finish the transition into an energy supply that supports renewables by the middle of the century. Innovation has historically been and can still be sitting in the driving seat of this transition.
There are two important steps to enable this: (i) for those applications where technology solutions exist, it is imperative to enable frameworks to refine their deployment, and (ii) for applications where solutions are either at early stage of commercialization or do not yet exist, subsequent step is to foster faster innovation, alongside enabling policy, social and financial measures, to rapidly bring the it to the marketplace.
Today, most research and development investment flows into sectors like wind, batteries and hydrogen systems, instead of into end-use technologies such as bioenergy, solar thermal, small electric and hybrid vehicles where the urgency is higher. Cutting-edge technologies and innovative approaches are portrayed in urban environments, to show the way to make energy transition to renewable resources smoother and faster. Nevertheless, to be fully effectively construed an constructed by researchers and technicians, and to be understood by local deciding authority and final users, innovative approaches must be framed within an adequate assessment scheme, beyond merely finding out lower carbon emissions and energy efficiency improvement.
One should never underestimate the impact of climate change across the world, especially with the increasing policy debates and scientific researches. Now, concerned citizens—irrespective of the country—are more interested in topics that are regarding their well-being and quality of life. Decarbonisation is of supreme importance if climate goals are to be achieved. Industries need to focus on decarbonising with the use of innovative technologies to capture and store or use carbon, increase shares of renewable energy, convert energy carriers and generate more commercial use of renewable and clean fuels.
Evidence points towards the planet remaining in worst-case scenario, with the future trajectory moving toward global warming crossing 2°C (3.6°F) year on year. Society is expecting technology to staunch the climate problem, and the final solution will be to leave most of the fossil fuels under the ground.
Transition Engineering could be the answer and the new interdisciplinary pursuit that could addresses the most important engineering challenge of our time: the shift from fossil fuels yet having an abundance of energy. The worldwide Association for Transition Engineering (GATE) encourages major universities to develop engineering programs in transition engineering. Professional training and postgraduate research projects are currently available. The GATE now accepts memberships and work towards marketing this engineering discipline, provide educational services, and develop best practice and standards for delivery of its objectives. The research in this novel field adds new insights into the scientific debate on the continued global energy transition by identifying action areas and closing the gaps at technology and sector levels. While more energy-related staff could also be required generally, it is not just requirement of traditional engineers or economists, but specialized transition engineers, IT and security experts, systems level planners, modelers and behavioral specialists. Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies are the core elements of this transition, and their compatible functioning are likewise important.
Emerging economies are expected to experience best-ever growth in energy demand in the coming decades. This suggests their future energy trajectories must be at an intersection of inclusive, affordable and sustainable growth. The technical complexities of renewable energy challenge would require more technical proficiency. Such technical challenges cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries and sometimes involve matters beyond the realms of techniques.
Broad training keeping in mind social and environmental dimensions of latest technologies within the engineering disciplines is important for a rapid and successful energy transition. The event of renewable energy technologies in most countries has been fraught with uncertainties and contradictions. Yet people are told there is a consensus between political parties and therefore the scientific engineering community toward a worldwide renewable energy transition.
But the fact is business leaders recognize that the most important risk to their business is energy transition as it involves a substitution of renewables for fossil fuels and development of elusive tail pipe technologies like carbon capture and storage. While this idea is good for the short-term, it is profoundly wrong in the long run. There is no means to achieve the energy transition without completely reworking every aspect of our infrastructure, industry and economy to vastly reduced energy demand.
Changing the worldwide economy to just eliminate utilization of fossil fuels may be a “wicked problem”, it has no known solution. That is why this new field of energy transition engineering is emerging to pave way for breakthrough solutions. We would like engineers who are keen to supply environment-friendly technologies and need to continue meeting energy demands without disruption, for the security and convenience of their customers.