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Biomass or batteries

The role of three technological innovations in the energy transition
PhD ceremony:Mr J.H. (Jan Hessels) Miedema
When:January 14, 2019
Start:16:15
Supervisor:prof. dr. H.C. (Henk) Moll
Co-supervisor:dr. H.J. (Henny J) van der Windt
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Science and Engineering

Society is on the verge of an energy transition in order to mitigate climate change and decrease the dependency on finite fossil resources. European policy emphasises the role of technology, by stimulating technological innovation. The introduction of batteries and biomass as energy carriers, to realise change in the transport, the energy and the residential sector are, therefore, accompanied with high expectations.

The results of this research show that the electric vehicles with lithium based batteries, co-combustion of biomass in a coal-fired power plant and large scale green gas production for the residential sector, only marginally contribute to the energy transition, within the required timeframe until 2050. In the case of green gas via biomass gasification, this is due to lagging technological development. Co-combustion results in an efficiency increase from a greenhouse perspective, but also leads to a less efficient power production system, from an energy perspective.

Electric vehicles result in increased energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, the expected continued expansion of the vehicle fleet, due to increased demand, is larger than the introduction rate of electric vehicles. Therefore, even though the energy efficiency of the transport sector increases, the absolute energy use and emissions of the transportation sector are expected to increase. It is highly probable that demand increases at a faster pace than efficiency increases, effectively annihilating the greenhouse gas reduction potential of the explored technological innovations. Therefore, these innovations do not lead to an energy transition.