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McKinsey: Renewables are ‘pivotal piece of the 1.5-degree puzzle’ but CCS needed

Coal use will also need to decrease by 80% worldwide, the consultancy said.

Coal use will also need to decrease by 80% worldwide, the consultancy said.

International consultancy McKinsey has said that renewable energy is a pivotal part of meeting the 1.5 degree climate limitations, but drastic change is needed to expand in time.

In new analysis, Climate math: What a 1.5-degree pathway would take, the consultancy identifies the decarbonisation of the power network, along with the electrification of "key areas of life", as two of the main steps to decarbonisation.

It found that electrification will at least triple the need for power by 2050, calling renewable energy a “pivotal piece of the 1.5-degree puzzle".

The analysis looked at three scenarios, mainly focusing on the situation that requires the least carbon capture and sequestration. In this scenario, it shows that solar capacity will need to increase to eight times today's levels, and wind capacity to five times today's levels by 2030.

Over the next decade, coal will also need to decrease by 80% worldwide. The UK is currently experiencing it’s longest period without coal generation on the network since the industrial revolution. The use of coal has been rapidly decreasing ahead of 2025 when it is due to be off the grid; there are now only four coal fired plants left.

Similarly, the amount of natural gas will need to decrease by between 20% and 35%. This provides huge challenges, both in the UK and internationally. Currently, nearly a quarter of the world's power comes from natural gas and 40% comes from coal generation.

The report notes that bioenergy and hydrogen are also likely to be needed to meet climate goals.

In the best scenario detailed, McKinsey suggests there needs to be a rapid migration to EVs, with sales of ICE vehicles more than halving by 2030 and stopping altogether by 2050.

This would require EVs sales to grow by 25% between 2016 and 2030, and require a rapid expansion of the battery industry. Should the transition happen slower however, the analysis suggests more sequestration of CO2 would be needed to stay within the 1.5 degree limit.

Additionally, space and water heating, would both need to look to electrification amongst other solutions to decarbonise. McKinsey suggests that electrifying heating where possible in residential and commercial buildings would abate 20% of 2016 levels of emissions. It suggested networking heating and hydrogen should also be expanded to increase this decarbonisation by nearly 40%.

Across all the scenarios outlined, the electrification of heat played an important role. To meet the 1.5 degree limit, the electrification of heat has to increase from less than 10% today to 26% by 2050 as a minimum.

Beyond this, the analysis called for the electrification of industry – with this needing to more than double by 2050 – along with measures to decarbonise the food supply chain, and finally CCS.

“Currently, it is impossible to chart a 1.5-degree pathway that does not remove CO2 to offset ongoing emissions. The math simply does not work," the consultancy said in its analysis.

The UK is actively pursuing CCS, with the Zero Carbon Humber project recently expanded, as well as the technology forming a large part of the government's 2020 Budget.

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