4Understanding Constraints to the Transformation Rate of Global Energy Infrastructure

Joe L. Lane1, Simon Smart1, Diego Schmeda‐Lopez1, Ove Hoegh‐Guldberg2, Andrew Garnett3, Chris Greig4 and Eric McFarland1

1 Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, Department of Chemical Engineering, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

2 Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

3 Center for Coal Seam Gas, Sustainable Mining Institute, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

4 UQ Energy Initiative, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

A massive transformation of the global energy supply system is required if deep reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions are to be achieved. A top‐down review of historical data and energy forecasts provides a perspective on the magnitude of the challenge. Global engineering capability has expanded significantly over the last two decades, accommodating more than 100 GW yr−1 increase in electricity generation infrastructure. However, business‐as‐usual (BAU) demand forecasts to 2050 will require more than double the global rates of energy project execution. Transforming to a low‐carbon energy supply mix requires 30–70 GW yr−1 of additional infrastructure, due to the increased reliance on intermittent renewables, and the earlier‐than‐expected replacement of existing coal power plants. Although all power systems share many similar subsystems that will need to be delivered regardless ...

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