State of the art of the strategic energy technologies

A new edition of the Strategic Energy Technologies review has been published. This "2011 Technology Map", produced by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), provides a European and worldwide analysis of 15 low-carbon energy technologies, energy efficiency in industry, energy performance of buildings and electricity storage in the power sector.

Compared with the 2009 Technology Map, the steep increase of wind power and solar energy (photovoltaics) generation capacity in the EU and worldwide is to be highlighted. On a global scale, hydropower continues to be the technology most widely used, providing 88% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

The study describes the state of the art of the different technologies, current and estimated market penetration, barriers to their large-scale deployment, planned R&D efforts to overcome those barriers and reference values for their operational and economic performance. It provides data covering the whole spectrum of the energy system, allowing policy makers and the research community to identify potential opportunities and gaps to achieve the transition to a low-carbon society. A necessary condition for the timely market roll-out of some of these technologies is an acceleration of their development and demonstration.

Among the updated data, the following findings can be highlighted:

Wind energy: the sector has seen significant changes in 2010 as compared to 2008, with deployment growing 29% in the EU to 84.3 GW of installed wind farm capacity, and an impressive 65% globally (to 200 GW), largely driven by China.

Photovoltaics: PV electricity generation capacity worldwide has continued its impressive growth rate, almost tripling from 14 GW in 2008 to 39 GW in 2010 (and 70 GW at the end of 2011). With a total installed capacity of almost 30 GW in the EU, the Member States have already made a significant step towards the target of 84 GW they committed in the National Renewable Energy Plans for 2020.

Concentrated solar power: At the beginning of 2011, Concentrating Solar Power plants with a cumulated capacity of about 730 MW, were in commercial operation in Spain, about 58% of the worldwide capacity of 1.26 GW. Spain is also currently constructing an additional 898 MW and another 842 MW have already registered for the feed-in tariff, which would bring the total capacity to about 2.5 GW by 2013.

Marine energy: current costs of both wave energy and tidal stream energy are still considerably higher than other technologies. Nevertheless the costs have dropped since 2009, from 4500 -13 000 €/kW to 3 750 – 6 000 €/kW. Most marine energy technologies are in an early stage of development, under demonstration or have a limited number of applications. Globally in 2010, more than 25 marine energy technology demonstration projects are being performed.

Bioenergy: in 2009, the contribution of biomass was more than two-thirds (68.6 %) of all renewable primary energy consumption. Primary energy production reached 100.6 Mtoe: 72.5 Mtoe from solid biomass, 8.4 Mtoe from biogas, 7.7 Mtoe from municipal solid wastes (MSW) and 12.1 Mtoe from biofuels. Of the total biomass consumption, 53 % was used for heat production, 33.8 % for electricity and cogeneration and 13.2 % for liquid fuels. Adequate sustainability requirements are critical to ensure the long-term availability of biomass and to increase customer/public acceptance of biofuels/bioenergy production.

Biofuels: since the adoption of the EU Renewables Directive in 2009, the development of advanced biofuel production processes has rapidly gathered pace. Major oil companies are now involved in large-scale demonstration projects in Europe and North America using non-food, waste and lignocellulosic feedstocks, mainly to produce bioethanol. The EU National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) predict that advanced biofuels will contribute 2.7 Mtoe to the transport sector by 2020, approximately 11% of the total biofuel contribution.

Hydropower: is the most widely used form of renewable energy with 3 190 TWh generated worldwide in 2010. This corresponds to 16 % of the global gross electricity generation and 88 % of electricity from renewable resources. Moreover, the global hydropower potential is considered to be around 7 500 TWh/y. In the EU, hydropower accounts for 11.6 % of gross electricity generation. Nevertheless, the European hydropower potential is already relatively well exploited and expected future growth is rather limited.

Energy performance of buildings: About 37 % of final energy consumption is taken by the building sector (households and services), with roughly two thirds used for space conditioning (temperature and ventilation) and the remaining one third is mostly electricity used for installations and appliances. The requirement of nearly-zero energy buildings from 2018-2020 as mentioned in the directive on energy performance of buildings (2010/31/EU) requires the development of new design approaches, supported by short and long term research activities, focusing more on the energy flows in, to and from the buildings. The JRC is supporting European legislation by assessing technical requirements for standardisation in relation to energy performance of buildings.

Electricity storage in the power sector: Power storage technologies have gained increased interest in the light of developments in renewables and distributed generation. An overview of these technologies as a function of their stage of commercial maturity and power investment costs is shown in the figure below.

Last but not least, a new chapter in the 2011 Technology Map looks at the energy efficiency and CO2 emission reduction measures being undertaken in the cement, iron and steel and pulp and paper industries.