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Energies 2015, 8(12), 13308-13343; doi:10.3390/en81212371

Substitutability of Electricity and Renewable Materials for Fossil Fuels in a Post-Carbon Economy

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Institute of Marine Sciences, Ps. Maritim de la Barceloneta 37-49, Barcelona 08003, Spain
Academic Editor: Robert Lundmark
Received: 7 September 2015 / Revised: 13 November 2015 / Accepted: 17 November 2015 / Published: 25 November 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economics of Bioenergy 2015)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [478 KB, uploaded 3 December 2015]   |  

Abstract

A feasible way to avoid the risk of energy decline and combat climate change is to build a 100% renewable global energy mix. However, a globally electrified economy cannot grow much above 12 electric terawatts without putting pressure on the limits of finite mineral reserves. Here we analyze whether 12 TW of electricity and 1 TW of biomass (final) power will be able to fuel a future post-carbon economy that can provide similar services to those of a contemporary economy. Contrarily to some pessimistic expectations, this analysis shows that the principle economic processes can be replaced with sustainable alternatives based on electricity, charcoal, biogas and hydrogen. Furthermore, those services that cannot be replaced are not as crucial so as to cause a return to a pre-industrial society. Even so, land transport and aviation are at the limit of what is sustainable, outdoor work should be reorganized, metal primary production should be based on hydrogen reduction when possible, mineral production should be increasingly based on recycling, the petrochemical industry should shrink to a size of 40%–43% of the 2012 petrochemical sector, i.e., a size similar to that the sector had in 1985–1986, and agriculture may require organic farming methods to be sustainable. View Full-Text
Keywords: post-carbon economy; 100% renewable mix; substitutability; electrification; sustainability; sustainable industry; steady state economy post-carbon economy; 100% renewable mix; substitutability; electrification; sustainability; sustainable industry; steady state economy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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García-Olivares, A. Substitutability of Electricity and Renewable Materials for Fossil Fuels in a Post-Carbon Economy. Energies 2015, 8, 13308-13343.

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