Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies

By Nils Røkke
TRONDHEIM, Norway, Jun 11 2019 (IPS)

Never before has half a degree (0.5C) meant so much for
humanity. We are behaving as if we have time to deal with climate
change. We don’t. The main problem is that we believe we must
sacrifice growth and prosperity for the sake of decarbonisation. We
don’t.

Increase investments

We can decarbonise the economy and create jobs and growth. In
Europe, this requires that member states increase investments in
energy research and renewable energy technologies.

Europe can take the lead by investing in research and reviewing
regulations, making sustainability a competitive advantage. The
public and the private sector need to work together to quickly
prototype technologies and then scale the pilots.

This requires research and innovation incentives. To show the
effect of these approaches, I would like to point out a few
concrete examples.

To increase investments in research in Europe, research
institutes, the public and the private sector need to link national
funding to EU programs. Existing research funding needs to be spent
more wisely.

Nils Røkke

Simultaneously the public and the private sector need to plan, work
and evaluate projects like real partners. I am certain that this
will incentivize and accelerate climate-friendly and market-worthy
businesses and ideas.

One example of an effective public-private partnership is the
Norwegian government’s support of research facilities for carbon
capture and storage at multiple locations for multiple industries.
This includes Norcem’s cement plant in Breivik and the recycling
of energy from a waste incineration plant at Klementsrud in
Oslo.

Leveraging public-private partnerships

The Norwegian government has understood that to balance its
national carbon budget, the public sector needs to support private
industry. Proof that this approach works is the first full-scale
carbon capture and storage (CCS) solution to be implemented at a
cement factory, in Brevik, Norway.

Government supported schemes for capacity building, research and
innovation has underpinned this development and planned deployment.
This has also included projects operating under the EU Framework
programs for research from FP6 to Horizon 2020. We need more
solutions that are sustainable, effective and realistic by 2030.
Which means we also need more public-private partnership.

Regulating change

At the same time, countries can regulate to ensure that
sustainable operations become a competitive advantage and that
sustainable technologies is rapidly deployed and adopted. A clear
example from industry is the Europe-wide market for carbon
quotas.

Requiring companies to pay for their emissions incentivizes them
to find the most innovative and effective ways to reduce their
emissions. The companies that can reduce emissions in the most
cost-effective way will in turn become more competitive. The
companies that change will capture market share and grow.

Regulations are also an incredibly efficient way to affect
consumer and market behaviour, and thereby which technologies are
sold, profitable and further improved. A common example of this is
the Norwegian government’s approach to regulating the personal
vehicle market.

Electric vehicles are exempt from many taxes and fees in Norway,
which makes them very appealing when compared to vehicles with
internal combustion engines. All of these incentives have made a
significant impact on consumers adopting electric vehicles.

In March 2019 Norway actually became the first country in the
world to sell more electric vehicles than internal combustion
vehicles.

Incentivising energy research

Increasing funds for energy research and affecting behaviour
through regulation are important for change, but full-scale pilot
projects will only scale when energy research itself is
incentivized. No one single technology or system can tackle our
transition to a zero-emission society.

Each country must therefore consider the tools at their disposal
to incentivise research into technologies for renewable energy.
This was the backdrop for establishing the Mission Innovation
initiative (MI) that was launched at the COP21 in Paris. Why is
only 1.8% of public research and development funding invested in
clean energy when clean energy is one of the most important ways to
achieve climate neutrality?

The Mission Innovation initiative aims to double the investment
into clean energy to trigger more investment from the private
sector. After all, public money cannot solve this challenge
alone.

Countries need to work together. At EERA, we work hard to ensure
that we facilitate cooperation to the greatest possible extent. One
concrete project I would like to draw attention to is the Joint
Programme for Concentrated Solar Power (JP CSP).

Fostering knowledge and technology transfer from advanced
European research to the most promising areas for solar thermal
energy is the key aim of the international cooperation strategy of
the program.

Within the framework of the EU funded Integrated Research
Programme STAGE-STE, the JP CSP has successfully integrated
partners from four continents – from Australia to Chile, Brazil,
Mexico, India, China, as well as from MENA countries like Libya,
Morocco and Saudi Arabia – in its research community, gathering
all the key research institutions working on CSP and solar thermal
energy.

The EU can always do more. One concrete recommendation I would
like to give as Executive Vice President of Sustainability at
SINTEF and Chair of EERA is to increase the budget for the next
Horizon Europe research program. The initial suggestion of 100
billion EUR should instead be expanded to 120 billion.

We need the budgetary room so that we can fully pursue the ideas
that make the most sense. Also, we need to be sure that the
research we do fully permeates industry. Therefore, “Pillar
Two” of Horizon Europe, the portion that connects the research
with industrial opportunities, must be further strengthened.

There are many solutions and technologies that are required to
generate the technologies and techniques for a more sustainable
future. All countries and member states in Europe should increase
their investments, regulate to ensure that sustainability becomes a
competitive advantage, and incentivize research to realize as many
solutions as possible.

Technology can keep us in the race to prevent global warming,
jobs and economic growth. How can we ever overspend on that
investment?

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Excerpt:

Nils Røkke is Chair of European Energy
Research Association and head of Sustainability at SINTEF
Energy.

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Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Developing Technologies for Zero-Carbon Economies