February 15, 2022
Can humanity beat Malthusian pessimism in the 21st century though electrification(Fuel switching) of transport and industrial process?
In 1798 the famous economist of the UK Thomas Robert Malthusian had predicted that exponential population growth will outpace linear food production growth and food shortages in the world will destroy a large chunk of the human population. But thanks to technological advancement in agriculture(artificial fertilizer, high yield variety seed)energy, manufacturing, transport, communications, public health, family planning, and modern contraception, humanity overcame Malthusian pessimism and kept food production ahead of the population growth.
Similarly, humanity can ward off the potential dangers of climate change.
Thanks to a breakthrough in renewable technology, energy storage technology and recent advance in ICT(Information and Communication Technology), Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligent, and Machine learning, humanity can solve the most intractable problems of our time.
Deep decarbonisation of the energy system is the antidote to climate changes related crises.
Deep decarbonisation of the energy system depends upon the following pillars.
Energy efficiency and Energy conservation
Demand for energy can be reduced by conservation of energy or by using energy-efficient appliances.
By harnessing infinite sources of renewable energy humanity can achieve low carbon electricity.
The usage of hydrocarbons as a fuel in transportation and in the industrial processes as heat is a major cause of the accumulation of GIG gases in the atmosphere, but thanks to recent advances in technology(fuel switching) deep decarbonisation of the transportation and industry sector are possible now.
Electrification of road transport
After electric power generation, the transportation sector is the second-largest consumer of fossil fuels. Electrifying the transportation sector can unlock huge economic and environmental benefits to humanity. By replacing hydrocarbon with low-carbon electricity, lithium battery-powered electric vehicles can be a low carbon emission alternative to combustion engine vehicles. By using smart electric vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology electric vehicles communicate with the power grid and use low carbon electricity during the off-peak demand period rather than during peak demand period hence providing additional storage network to the grid.
Usage of hydrogen as fuel in the transport sector
Conversion of excess low-carbon electricity into hydrogen (synthetic fuels) gas through electrolysis(splitting water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen)
can be used as a fuel cell in transportation and can be a better alternative to hydrocarbons.
Electrification of industrial manufacturing processes (heat process)
After electric power generation and transportation sector manufacturing is the third-largest consumer of hydrocarbons.Many industrial processes in energy-intensive industries such as steel, metal, cement and oil refining use fossil fuels to produce heat, a source of CO2 (Carbon dioxide)emission in the atmosphere. By electrifying process heat through a heat pump or thermal storage or directed-heating technologies such as electric arc, magnetic induction, microwave, ultraviolet, radio frequency, now it is possible to decarbonise manufacturing processes. Electrification of process heat obviates the usage of fossil fuels in end-use equipment such as hot water heaters, and industrial boilers.
Electrification of heat(electric heat pumps)
Apart from electric power generation, transport and industrial sector, the building sector is a major contributor of GHG(Greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by using hydrocarbon. Using low-carbon electricity, heat pumps(heat exchangers)extract heat from the ground, air or water to use in space heating.
Electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, road transport and heat along with usage of hydrogen as fuel in the transport sector can reduce carbon footprint. As technologies are available to decarbonised the entire energy sector, the challenge is how to integrate these technologies into the system cost-effectively. So there is a hope that as in the past humanity had beaten Malthusian pessimism regarding food shortages and impending famine, similarly, humanity can successfully address climate change-related challenges.