Climate change is best tackled through lots of small-scale solutions

Massive public funds are being raised to pull out of the COVID-induced recession. Many countries are in the direction of ensuring the allocation of parts of their stimulus package. Recovery is green.

As we emerge from the COVID setback and seek to accelerate progress on decarbonization, should we prioritize large or small scale solutions?

  • One million 1 kW solar panel or one 1 gigawatt nuclear reactor?
  • Single tram on 250 electric bikes or light transit system?
  • A £ 150 smart thermostat or a £ 50,000 whole-house energy-efficient retrofit?

There are many low-carbon ways to supply energy, providing mobility in cities and summer homes. These solutions are differentiated into what we have called granular – nodular continuity.

The more granular options are relatively small in size, lower in cost, and modular – they are larger in scale through replication. More lumpy options are relatively large, expensive and non-divisible – they grow larger.

For a study published in Science Earlier this year, we collected data on a variety of energy technologies along the granular-nodular continuum and then tested how well they performed against the nine characteristics of accelerated low-carbon transformation.

We found that more granular technologies have nine significant advantages over more lumpy alternatives. These advantages set clear priorities for policy makers deciding how to allocate limited resources.

Fast and cheap energy supply

The first three are all essential elements of rapid technological change in how we supply and use energy The buildings, Transport and Industry. The UK and the world are far behind in terms of progress towards net-zero emissions, speed is the essence.

First, we rapidly deployed more granular technologies with lower cost constraints and less specific capital requirements. While it seems Decades and billions To get a nuclear power station up and running, energy equivalent to distributed solar power can be deployed over the years for a fraction of the cost.

Second, we found that more granular technologies are less risky to investors, with higher costs and lower construction delays.

Third, we found that more granular techniques rapidly improve cost and performance, as they provide more opportunities for experimentation and learning. Learning rates, which measure the percentage cost reduction for each doubling of cumulative experience, are double that for small-scale technologies.

Big projects create inertia

The second set of advantages of granularity contributes to saving inertia or “lock-in” with long-lived, slow-change and ever-expanding infrastructure in our current energy system.

Credit: jplenio / Pixabay

Fourth, we found that more granular technologies have shorter lifetimes, enabling quicker turnover of existing capital stocks. Conversely, power stations, jet aircraft, and skyscrapers would form once which would create inertia to change decades or centuries.

Fifth, we found that more granular technologies provide more opportunities for efficiency improvements that reduce the magnitude of decarbonization challenge.

Sixth, we found that more granular technologies are less complex, enabling more rapid innovation cycles. This means that product and process improvements occur faster from laboratory to market.

Widely shared benefits

The final three benefits all assume that climate action and climate justice go hand in hand. Rapid disintegration is not possible without social and political legitimacy, which comes from widely shared benefits and jobs.

Seventh, we found that more granular technologies are more evenly distributed among the world’s population. You are eight times more likely to have access to a mobile phone than a car.

Eighth, we found that more granular technologies provide higher social returns on every public dollar invested in innovation. Higher economic productivity, more air pollution benefits, greater energy security.

And ninth, but at least, we found that more granular technologies mean more jobs. Per unit of electricity generated, a solar plant creates ten times the net employment of a fossil fuel or nuclear power facility.

In our study, we are careful to state that these nine benefits of granularity do not fall from heaven like manna. They are the result of solid research, innovation, investment, standardization, large scale manufacturing and policy advocacy.

Integrating a lot of granular technologies into existing structures can also be challenging: heat pumps and solar panels need to be added to electrical networks, electric vehicles to charging stations, insulation products to building envelopes.

And neither can reduce granularity in all contexts. There is no substitute for some lumpy techniques. Think jet plane Long haul Or iron, steel and cement manufacturing.

In other cases, more granular options are available, but provide a different type of service. Both bicycles and SUVs can be found around cities, but with different implications for speed, comfort, health, convenience, condition and more.

So there is not a black and white picture, yet we have found evidence that more granular energy technologies deploy faster, improve quickly, provide more ways to avoid carbon lock-in, more uniform. Are easily accessible and create more jobs.chit chat

By this article Charlie wilson, Reader, School of Environmental Sciences, University of east anglia; Caroline Zim, Research Scholar, Transition to New Technologies, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), And Simon de Starke, Research Associate, Engineering, Imperial College LondonRepublished from chit chat Under a Creative Commons license. read the Original article.