Collaborative approach will slash cost of clean energy

Posted on 1 Dec 2015 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Global collaboration is key to accelerating innovation and decreasing the cost of clean energy, according to a new report.

The world can save an estimated US$550bn on the cost of deploying clean energy technologies over the next decade, putting them on a path to cost competitiveness.

Technology costs need to be reduced further and deployment accelerated to have any chance of meeting 2050 climate change targets.

This is one of the key findings in a new report, United Innovations: cost-competitive clean energy through global collaboration, published today by the Carbon Trust with funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Prosperity Fund.

The study states that while most of the technologies needed to complete the transition to a low carbon energy system already exist, their costs need to be reduced further and deployment accelerated to have any chance of meeting 2050 climate change targets.

Global collaboration can help on both fronts, but it has proven extremely difficult to generate real momentum for action. The right stakeholders need to be around the table and align priorities and incentives in a way that maximises mutual benefits and minimises risks.

Over the past two decades there have been hundreds of bilateral and multilateral commitments to work together on low carbon technology innovation. Some have delivered successes, but the overall impact has been less than expected.

In many cases the original intentions behind agreements have been lost and there has been limited implementation, such as joint spending on pilot projects and demonstrations of innovative technologies.

Carbon Trust analysis, based on the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 2 Degree Scenario, estimates that US$5tn will need to be invested into the deployment of low carbon energy technologies by 2025.

This cost could be reduced by more than US$550bn through collaborative innovation. This creates a huge economic opportunity for countries willing to work together strategically on developing new innovations and deploying existing low carbon technologies.

While competition in the private sector remains essential, lack of collaboration between national programmes has resulted in a duplication of efforts and a waste of resources.

More significantly, the lack of effective coordination has resulted in a number of hurdles emerging, such as misaligned incentives and contradicting regulatory regimes, which often prevent private sector involvement at scale.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, commented: “Transitioning to a low carbon energy system is beyond the capability of any single country. Climate change is a global problem that needs global solutions.

Tom Delay, chief executive at Carbon Trust
Tom Delay, chief executive at Carbon Trust

“We are seeing unprecedented levels of commitment from COP21 in Paris, but to ensure we keep to a 2° scenario the road through Paris cannot only be paved with good intentions.

“We need action, we need more of it and we need it now. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The technological foundations of the transition to a low carbon energy system must be laid in the next ten years.

“We must work together to make it happen, but we recognise that collaboration can be a particularly difficult endeavour. The good news is that working together is good for a country’s national interests, creating a bigger share of a bigger prize.”