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Energy Technologies Scenarios to 2050

4. How much effort is needed in research, development and demonstration?

    The source document for this Digest states:

    The Esbjerg Power Station, a CO2 capture site in Denmark
    The Esbjerg Power Station, a CO2 capture site in Denmark
    Source: DONG Energy

    Research, development and demonstration

    Some of the technologies needed for the BLUE scenarios are not yet available. Many others require further refinement and cost reductions. A huge effort of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) will therefore be needed. Yet public- and private-sector spending on energy RD&D has been declining compared to the levels of the 1970s and 1980s and has now stabilised at a relatively low level. Many OECD countries spend less than 0.03% of GDP. The exception is Japan, which spends 0.08%. Private-sector energy RD&D spending now far exceeds public-sector outlay. While details are difficult to establish, independent studies have suggested that public-sector RD&D needs to increase by between two and ten times its current level. We do not set a specific target, but it is clear that a major acceleration in RD&D effort is needed both to bring forward new technologies and to reduce costs of those already available. Further advances and lower cost solutions are needed for critical technologies such as solar PV, advanced coal plant, advanced biofuels, CO2 capture, electric batteries, fuel cells and hydrogen production. Even with large increases, the cost of R&D is relatively modest – typically one order of magnitude lower – than that of full scale demonstration and deployment programmes. Well directed energy R&D represents excellent value for money.

    Government support is also needed for the larger-scale demonstration of new technology, reducing the risks of the first stage of commercialisation. There is an urgent need for the full-scale demonstration of coal plants with CCS.

    Basic science in areas such as geology, physics, chemistry, materials, biochemistry, nanotechnology and applied mathematics can trigger breakthroughs in critical areas. It is essential to enhance the science base and its links with technology.

    Source & ©: IEA,  Energy Technology Perspectives 2008 :
    Scenarios and strategies to 2050. Executive Summary. (2008) Research, development and demonstration. p.8.

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