Category Archives: Energy Transformation

America’s Inflation Reduction Act is asking too much of car manufacturers and electric vehicle supply chains

Response Doctoral Programme

America’s recently passed climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), provides strong support for accelerated adoption of clean vehicles in the US. Subsidies are generous for consumers looking to go electric, but only for vehicles that meet strict geographic requirements for critical mineral sourcing, battery manufacturing and vehicle assembly. Unabashedly, the US is seeking to shift the EV supply chain from China to North America, but at what cost?

RESPONSE fellow Bessie Noll discusses whether the isolationist IRA is the right move for the US and, more importantly, the climate.

Read Bessie Nolls’ Energy Blog article.

Bessie Noll is currently a fellow in the RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585.

Citation: Noll, Bessie. “America’s Inflation Reduction Act is asking too much of car manufacturers and electric vehicle supply chains”, Energy Blog @ ETH Zurich, ETH Zurich, December 6, 2022, https://blogs.ethz.ch/energy/inflation-reduction-act/

Featured photo is ETH-licensed from Adobe Stock.

Summary from Response Thematic Event: Sustainable Energy System – Who Will Lead the Way?

In this public event of the Response Doctoral Program, organized by the Energy System Science Center, GreenBuzz and Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center at Siemens in Zug one question was in the focus: how do we get to a sustainable energy system?

For sustainable energy systems the innovative technologies are existing, but we have to combine them in the most sustainable way to decarbonize our future. The questions are what business model change, political regulations and societal adaptation are needed and inevitable and helped us to answer the questions “What steps we should take?”, and “Who will lead the way?”

9 Response doctoral students presented and discussed their research to representatives from the energy sector, companies and the public. They presented their research on green energy models, biofuels, semiconductor efficiency, managing hydropower dams, carbon capture and storage or the future of electrical transport.

From the keynotes:

Kristina Orehounig, Empa draw attention to the housing infrastructure that needs to be cooled in summer and heated in winter due to climate change. For this CO2 emission-low systems need to be combinations of multiple renewable supply technologies in small decentralized networks in neighbourhoods.

Kaja Hollstein, Swissgrid pointed out challenges in the future when the grid system is operated with renewables. In winter demand for heating is highest while supply by photovoltaic drops in several countries at the same time. In this case there will be no import market that can balance the shortages of energy.

Ilonka Zapke, Siemens showed the Wunsiedel blueprint for our energy future. Energy comes from renewables and is stored in one of the largest batteries worldwide. Battery storage might be one solution to energy shortages in the grid system.

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Response Doctoral Programme: European Policy for CCS networks

Linda Frattini contributed to a policy report that evaluates possible governance frameworks for establishing a European CCS network. In principle, CCS projects are eligible for support through different European and national funding tools, but more ambitious support schemes for CCS projects through national governments seem to be necessary.

From the report:

CCS technologies are poised to help attain the EU’s 2050 net-zero target, mainly by effecting emission reduction in energy-intensive industries and underpinning carbon removal solutions. For this to happen, there is a need for a carefully planned and well-coordinated scale-up of emerging CO2 transport and storage networks, and for national governments to come forward with. This is particularly important for the Just Transition of many industrial regions and clusters in Central and Eastern Europe, where CCS can complement the deployment of renewables, especially in places where clean electricity is not available at the scale and within the timeframe required by the EU’s 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets.

Background:

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing CO2 either through post-combustion capture [1]  [FL1] or via direct air capture[FL2]  [2], transporting it and storing it for centuries or millennia in deep geological formations or sequestering in mineral carbonates from CO2.

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Could “advanced” nuclear technologies support low-carbon energy strategies?

Response Doctoral Programme

“No” says Bessie Noll et al. (2021) in a synthesis paper as renewable energy technologies have significant advantage over current non-traditional nuclear reactor designs.

Taking insight foremost from a 2021 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on “advanced” nuclear reactors, their synthesis examines three non-traditional nuclear reactor designs based on three UCS defined evaluation criterion—safety and security risk, sustainability, and nuclear proliferation potential—as well as one additional criterion added newly, “economics”.  Proclaimed advantages of non-traditional over traditional reactors are also included in an “Expectation vs. Reality” rapid-fire comparison.

Some of the arguments:

  • Technologically immature non-traditional reactors have to compete with renewable energy technologies which are already today drastically cheaper on a $/kWh basis and have much steeper learning curves.
  • Even with optimistic assumptions for deployment timelines, non-traditional reactors will likely be outcompeted in deployment by renewables and grid-scale battery storage (in some cases, they already are)—relatively more mature technologies that are readily being deployed today
  • It is highly unlikely that non-traditional reactors will be able to ramp-up construction fast enough to stay in-line with climate targets.
  • Nuclear reactors built in a modular fashion are not spared the curse of high capital cost and long construction times in practice.
  • Non-traditional reactors introduce new safety issues that will require extensive testing and analysis. The technology itself is too early in its development stage to be certain of all possible safety issues.
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