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Top 55 technology 'quests' for reaching net zero in Europe identified

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

In order to reach net zero in Europe, a number of ‘technology quests’ must be embarked upon to upgrade grids, enable bifacial solar and driving electric vehicle (EV) deployment.

A new report by consultancy Capgemini, commissioned by Breakthrough Energy, identified 55 of these pathways, which will require an estimated €144 billion (£130 billion) of public and private investment annually.

Digitalisation and distribution

To decarbonise energy, Capgemini highlighted the need for digitalisation across the customer, production and grid levels in order to solve availability and intermittency challenges.

Smart solutions to these can help to make distribution grids more flexible, to cope with more frequency variations and to reduce imbalances between supply and demand, it said.

These solutions could include implementing interconnectors, measuring energy flows in real-time, integrating renewable energy and new forms of consumption such as electric vehicles and managing efficiently energy storage, with the help of digital and automated tools.

It explained how digital technologies are key to increasing flexibility, control of demand, supply and storage and improving aggregation of demand.

Energy storage was also identified as its own separate technology, with a need to develop viable short- and long-duration storage alternatives to lithium-ion, which it said might not be the go-to choice for stationary storage for environmental and economic reasons.

There is also a need to develop grids, HVDC, storage and innovative technologies to build a robust grid for all of Europe.

Solar takes centre stage

Solar technologies took centre stage when it came to generation, with Capgemini identifying the need for giga-scale manufacturing of new solar modules and increased use of bifacial panels to improve efficiency.

This comes the day after the International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook, which placed solar as the ‘new king’ of the energy sector. Globally, annual additions of the technology are set to almost triple by 2030 from today’s levels, setting new records for deployment each year after 2022.

However, offshore floating wind was also identified as a technology quest, with a need to “unlock” 80% of Europe’s offshore wind potential through a rapid scale-up of new generation floating wind structures.

In the UK there is a growing push in the sector, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently increasing the country’s target to 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. To reach this he has committed £160 million of funding to develop the supply chain, with a particular focus on floating wind.

Heat pumps also got their own technology quest, with Capgemini identifying the need to multiply the number of installed heat pumps, betting on synergies with the EV industry to launch low-cost heat pump factories.

Levering R&D for disruptive EV charging solutions

When it came to EVs, a number of technology quests were listed, including fostering both private and public EV charging infrastructure to ease adoption of short distance e-mobility. Faster, cheaper and more convenient technologies for EV charging should also be developed, levering European R&D to invent disruptive charging solutions.

Short distance truck transport, waste collection and urban bus fleets should also be electrified.

Collectively, undertaking the 55 technology quests – which included those focused on building, industry and food and land use as well as energy and transport - would support 12.7 million jobs, creating €790 billion (£715 billion) of gross value by 2030 and building toward a €12.9 trillion (£11.7 billion) opportunity from 2030 to 2050.

Cyril Garcia, CEO of Capgemini Invent, said the report confirms that Europe’s clean tech revolution can be “as significant as the digital revolution and plays to Europe’s core industrial strengths and leadership”.

“This report is practical and actionable; it highlights some already best-available technologies that are well-positioned to make a real impact by 2030, as well as the promising breakthrough and next-gen clean technologies that will help Europe meet its ambitious 2050 net-zero target.”

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