As part of the global energy transition, the current plan for existing fossil fuel assets is early retirement, replacing their function with energy efficiency (reducing demand for heat and electricity) and new, greenfield, low-carbon energy production. This is a challenging prospect because of the difficulty of stranding trillions of dollars of recent investments in equipment that have remaining technical lifespans of many decades. In addition, the fossil fuel industry is a key local employer in many regions. Coal is the largest source of electricity generation globally, and out of 2000 GW of coal power plant capacity in operation, more than half is less than 14 years old, with equipment that is technically fit to run for many decades.
This talk explores whether there is a way we could avoid stranding existing significant fossil assets & investments, avoid local job losses and negative economic impacts, while eliminating emissions and enabling a lower-cost and more rapid transition to a sustainable energy system.
The global climate challenge has been succinctly summarized as being about two things: ”Building stuff and closing stuff”. Fossil fuel plant repowering by low-carbon heat sources is a scalable idea that has the potential to do both in one fell swoop. The cumulative potential for emissions reductions for repowering has been estimated at 200 billion tons of CO2. Uniquely for an idea with this type of potential, it is currently little-explored and not very well-known. This talk gives an introduction to the principles, challenges and potentials of the repowering of fossil fuel assets by low- carbon energy.