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COP26: Wartsila sees major role for renewables supported by thermal back-up

Highlights

Engineering company touts dual role for clean and fossil energy

Benefits of renewables-led energy cumulative, self-reinforcing

Technology already exists for 100% renewables by 2050

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The future of electricity is a combination of renewable energy supported by thermal back-up plants and energy storage systems, said marine and energy engineering company Wartsila.

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A fully renewable energy system is possible by 2050 but a mix of technologies will be needed as the global energy transition progresses, the company said Nov. 2.

"The pieces of the puzzle are already on the table; we have the technology needed to realize a 100% renewable energy future," Wartsila president Sushil Purohit said in a statement.

"It is now a question of putting those pieces together on a global scale to deliver sustainable, reliable, and renewable energy grids," he said.

The comments came as the UK unveiled a "Breakthrough Agenda" at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow – a commitment among countries to work together to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies and sustainable solutions needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"The Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda, announced at COP26 today, provides the lodestar for climate action during this decade of delivery on climate pledges," said Purohit.

To decarbonize across all the sectors covered by the declaration, including power, transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture, renewable energy must be accessible by 2030 and ubiquitous by 2050, he said.

"This announcement provides ambition, but it is essential that we also have a practical route to achieve it," he said.

"This is a far more difficult question – a green future is not black or white. To understand how countries can reach net-zero, modelling and analysis must be leveraged to create a practical guide for countries to increase renewable energy," said Purohit.

Wartsila's recent modelling demonstrates that countries must prioritize renewable energy now, supported by flexible assets such as thermal balancing plants and energy storage solutions to create systems which are resilient to the intermittency of wind and solar, he said.

"The benefits of these renewable-led systems are cumulative and self-reinforcing – the more we have, the greater the benefits. What's more, the faster we act, the greater the rewards we can unlock both now and in the future," he said.

Modelling by S&P Global Platts Analytics shows that global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are set to reach 34.17 billion mt per year by 2040 under a September 2021 Reference Case, while CO2 output could fall to 21.25 billion mt/year by 2040 under a 2 degrees Celsius scenario – highlighting a global 'emissions gap' that must be filled to avoid crossing agreed temperature limits.