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Special Issue "Low Carbon Economy"

A special issue of Energies (ISSN 1996-1073).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2016)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. John Barrett

School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: low carbon futures; energy and economic modelling; climate policy; resource efficiency

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The “Low Carbon Economy” has become the catchphrase of many governments from all regions of the world. There has been interest in the creation of “greener economies”, and how more sustainable energy systems could help create industrial opportunities and jobs. However, fundamental questions remain about the ability to achieve a low carbon society in a growing economy where past trends showing absolute decoupling between energy demand and growth. In addition, the need for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compatible with a 1.5-degree limit in global temperature rise was clearly outlined by all governments in the most recent Climate Change Summit in Paris. Unresolved questions remain in our understanding of the complex relationship between energy and economic growth and whether the concept of a “low carbon economy” is a myth or reality and whether reductions can be delivered at the required scale and timeframe.

We are looking for contributions that are employing new approaches to fully explore economic implications of energy and low carbon futures and the complexity of the relationship. For this Special Issue, we are looking for papers that develop this fundamental understanding of the relationship between energy and economic growth at a macro-economic level and the consequences of different energy pathways for employment, prices, trade flows, investment and innovation, income distribution, etc. The Special Issue will focus on papers that demonstrate the ability to deliver absolute reductions in energy and greenhouse gas emissions while considering the wider societal and economic impacts. We would accept a wide range of methodologies including conventional economic approaches but also other approaches that provide new insights into this important question.

Prof. Dr. John Barrett
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • low carbon economy
  • green growth
  • energy/economy relationships
  • macro rebound effects
  • employment
  • rapid low carbon transitions
  • absolute decoupling

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Developing an Input-Output Based Method to Estimate a National-Level Energy Return on Investment (EROI)
Energies 2017, 10(4), 534; doi:10.3390/en10040534
Received: 10 February 2017 / Revised: 31 March 2017 / Accepted: 8 April 2017 / Published: 14 April 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (3422 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Concerns have been raised that declining energy return on energy investment (EROI) from fossil fuels, and low levels of EROI for alternative energy sources, could constrain the ability of national economies to continue to deliver economic growth and improvements in social wellbeing while
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Concerns have been raised that declining energy return on energy investment (EROI) from fossil fuels, and low levels of EROI for alternative energy sources, could constrain the ability of national economies to continue to deliver economic growth and improvements in social wellbeing while undertaking a low-carbon transition. However, in order to test these concerns on a national scale, there is a conceptual and methodological gap in relation to calculating a national-level EROI and analysing its policy implications. We address this by developing a novel application of an Input-Output methodology to calculate a national-level indirect energy investment, one of the components needed for calculating a national-level EROI. This is a mixed physical and monetary approach using Multi-Regional Input-Output data and an energy extension. We discuss some conceptual and methodological issues relating to defining EROI for a national economy, and describe in detail the methodology and data requirements for the approach. We obtain initial results for the UK for the period 1997–2012, which show that the country’s EROI has been declining since the beginning of the 21st Century. We discuss the policy relevance of measuring national-level EROI and propose avenues for future research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle The Deployment of Low Carbon Technologies in Energy Intensive Industries: A Macroeconomic Analysis for Europe, China and India
Energies 2017, 10(3), 360; doi:10.3390/en10030360
Received: 30 September 2016 / Revised: 9 February 2017 / Accepted: 2 March 2017 / Published: 14 March 2017
PDF Full-text (3200 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Industrial processes currently contribute 40% to global CO2 emissions and therefore substantial increases in industrial energy efficiency are required for reaching the 2 °C target. We assess the macroeconomic effects of deploying low carbon technologies in six energy intensive industrial sectors (Petroleum,
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Industrial processes currently contribute 40% to global CO2 emissions and therefore substantial increases in industrial energy efficiency are required for reaching the 2 °C target. We assess the macroeconomic effects of deploying low carbon technologies in six energy intensive industrial sectors (Petroleum, Iron and Steel, Non-metallic Minerals, Paper and Pulp, Chemicals, and Electricity) in Europe, China and India in 2030. By combining the GAINS technology model with a macroeconomic computable general equilibrium model, we find that output in energy intensive industries declines in Europe by 6% in total, while output increases in China by 11% and in India by 13%. The opposite output effects emerge because low carbon technologies lead to cost savings in China and India but not in Europe. Consequently, the competitiveness of energy intensive industries is improved in China and India relative to Europe, leading to higher exports to Europe. In all regions, the decarbonization of electricity plays the dominant role for mitigation. We find a rebound effect in China and India, in the size of 42% and 34% CO2 reduction, respectively, but not in Europe. Our results indicate that the range of considered low-carbon technology options is not competitive in the European industrial sectors. To foster breakthrough low carbon technologies and maintain industrial competitiveness, targeted technology policy is therefore needed to supplement carbon pricing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle The Impact of Shale Gas on the Cost and Feasibility of Meeting Climate Targets—A Global Energy System Model Analysis and an Exploration of Uncertainties
Energies 2017, 10(2), 158; doi:10.3390/en10020158
Received: 5 October 2016 / Revised: 13 January 2017 / Accepted: 17 January 2017 / Published: 27 January 2017
PDF Full-text (1903 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
There exists considerable uncertainty over both shale and conventional gas resource availability and extraction costs, as well as the fugitive methane emissions associated with shale gas extraction and its possible role in mitigating climate change. This study uses a multi-region energy system model,
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There exists considerable uncertainty over both shale and conventional gas resource availability and extraction costs, as well as the fugitive methane emissions associated with shale gas extraction and its possible role in mitigating climate change. This study uses a multi-region energy system model, TIAM (TIMES integrated assessment model), to consider the impact of a range of conventional and shale gas cost and availability assessments on mitigation scenarios aimed at achieving a limit to global warming of below 2 °C in 2100, with a 50% likelihood. When adding shale gas to the global energy mix, the reduction to the global energy system cost is relatively small (up to 0.4%), and the mitigation cost increases by 1%–3% under all cost assumptions. The impact of a “dash for shale gas”, of unavailability of carbon capture and storage, of increased barriers to investment in low carbon technologies, and of higher than expected leakage rates, are also considered; and are each found to have the potential to increase the cost and reduce feasibility of meeting global temperature goals. We conclude that the extraction of shale gas is not likely to significantly reduce the effort required to mitigate climate change under globally coordinated action, but could increase required mitigation effort if not handled sufficiently carefully. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Exploring the Feasibility of Low-Carbon Scenarios Using Historical Energy Transitions Analysis
Energies 2017, 10(1), 116; doi:10.3390/en10010116
Received: 31 October 2016 / Revised: 13 December 2016 / Accepted: 5 January 2017 / Published: 18 January 2017
PDF Full-text (5493 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
The scenarios generated by energy systems models provide a picture of the range of possible pathways to a low-carbon future. However, in order to be truly useful, these scenarios should not only be possible but also plausible. In this paper, we have used
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The scenarios generated by energy systems models provide a picture of the range of possible pathways to a low-carbon future. However, in order to be truly useful, these scenarios should not only be possible but also plausible. In this paper, we have used lessons from historical energy transitions to create a set of diagnostic tests to assess the feasibility of an example 2 °C scenario (generated using the least cost optimization model, TIAM-Grantham). The key assessment criteria included the rate of deployment of low carbon technologies and the rate of transition between primary energy resources. The rates of deployment of key low-carbon technologies were found to exceed the maximum historically observed rate of deployment of 20% per annum. When constraints were added to limit the scenario to within historically observed rates of change, the model no longer solved for 2 °C. Under these constraints, the lowest median 2100 temperature change for which a solution was found was about 2.1 °C and at more than double the cumulative cost of the unconstrained scenario. The analysis in this paper highlights the considerable challenge of meeting 2 °C, requiring rates of energy supply technology deployment and rates of declines in fossil fuels which are unprecedented. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Assessing the Feasibility of Global Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios
Energies 2017, 10(1), 89; doi:10.3390/en10010089
Received: 3 October 2016 / Revised: 8 December 2016 / Accepted: 16 December 2016 / Published: 13 January 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2960 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study explores the critical notion of how feasible it is to achieve long-term mitigation goals to limit global temperature change. It uses a model inter-comparison of three integrated assessment models (TIAM-Grantham, MESSAGE-GLOBIOM and WITCH) harmonized for socio-economic growth drivers using one of
[...] Read more.
This study explores the critical notion of how feasible it is to achieve long-term mitigation goals to limit global temperature change. It uses a model inter-comparison of three integrated assessment models (TIAM-Grantham, MESSAGE-GLOBIOM and WITCH) harmonized for socio-economic growth drivers using one of the new shared socio-economic pathways (SSP2), to analyse multiple mitigation scenarios aimed at different temperature changes in 2100, in order to assess the model outputs against a range of indicators developed so as to systematically compare the feasibility across scenarios. These indicators include mitigation costs and carbon prices, rates of emissions reductions and energy efficiency improvements, rates of deployment of key low-carbon technologies, reliance on negative emissions, and stranding of power generation assets. The results highlight how much more challenging the 2 °C goal is, when compared to the 2.5–4 °C goals, across virtually all measures of feasibility. Any delay in mitigation or limitation in technology options also renders the 2 °C goal much less feasible across the economic and technical dimensions explored. Finally, a sensitivity analysis indicates that aiming for less than 2 °C is even less plausible, with significantly higher mitigation costs and faster carbon price increases, significantly faster decarbonization and zero-carbon technology deployment rates, earlier occurrence of very significant carbon capture and earlier onset of global net negative emissions. Such a systematic analysis allows a more in-depth consideration of what realistic level of long-term temperature changes can be achieved and what adaptation strategies are therefore required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Energy Rebound as a Potential Threat to a Low-Carbon Future: Findings from a New Exergy-Based National-Level Rebound Approach
Energies 2017, 10(1), 51; doi:10.3390/en10010051
Received: 30 September 2016 / Revised: 13 December 2016 / Accepted: 19 December 2016 / Published: 7 January 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (2846 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
150 years ago, Stanley Jevons introduced the concept of energy rebound: that anticipated energy efficiency savings may be “taken back” by behavioural responses. This is an important issue today because, if energy rebound is significant, this would hamper the effectiveness of energy efficiency
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150 years ago, Stanley Jevons introduced the concept of energy rebound: that anticipated energy efficiency savings may be “taken back” by behavioural responses. This is an important issue today because, if energy rebound is significant, this would hamper the effectiveness of energy efficiency policies aimed at reducing energy use and associated carbon emissions. However, empirical studies which estimate national energy rebound are rare and, perhaps as a result, rebound is largely ignored in energy-economy models and associated policy. A significant difficulty lies in the components of energy rebound assessed in empirical studies: most examine direct and indirect rebound in the static economy, excluding potentially significant rebound of the longer term structural response of the national economy. In response, we develop a novel exergy-based approach to estimate national energy rebound for the UK and US (1980–2010) and China (1981–2010). Exergy—as “available energy”—allows a consistent, thermodynamic-based metric for national-level energy efficiency. We find large energy rebound in China, suggesting that improvements in China’s energy efficiency may be associated with increased energy consumption (“backfire”). Conversely, we find much lower (partial) energy rebound for the case of the UK and US. These findings support the hypothesis that producer-sided economies (such as China) may exhibit large energy rebound, reducing the effectiveness of energy efficiency, unless other policy measures (e.g., carbon taxes) are implemented. It also raises the prospect we need to deploy renewable energy sources faster than currently planned, if (due to rebound) energy efficiency policies cannot deliver the scale of energy reduction envisaged to meet climate targets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Low-Carbon Energy Development in Indonesia in Alignment with Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) by 2030
Energies 2017, 10(1), 52; doi:10.3390/en10010052
Received: 29 September 2016 / Revised: 26 December 2016 / Accepted: 27 December 2016 / Published: 5 January 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2049 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
This study analyzed the role of low-carbon energy technologies in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of Indonesia’s energy sector by 2030. The aim of this study was to provide insights into the Indonesian government’s approach to developing a strategy and plan for mitigating
[...] Read more.
This study analyzed the role of low-carbon energy technologies in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of Indonesia’s energy sector by 2030. The aim of this study was to provide insights into the Indonesian government’s approach to developing a strategy and plan for mitigating emissions and achieving Indonesia’s emission reduction targets by 2030, as pledged in the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. The Asia-Pacific Integrated Model/Computable General Equilibrium (AIM/CGE) model was used to quantify three scenarios that had the same socioeconomic assumptions: baseline, countermeasure (CM)1, and CM2, which had a higher emission reduction target than that of CM1. Results of the study showed that an Indonesian low-carbon energy system could be achieved with two pillars, namely, energy efficiency measures and deployment of less carbon-intensive energy systems (i.e., the use of renewable energy in the power and transport sectors, and the use of natural gas in the power sector and in transport). Emission reductions would also be satisfied through the electrification of end-user consumption where the electricity supply becomes decarbonized by deploying renewables for power generation. Under CM1, Indonesia could achieve a 15.5% emission reduction target (compared to the baseline scenario). This reduction could be achieved using efficiency measures that reduce final energy demand by 4%; This would require the deployment of geothermal power plants at a rate six times greater than the baseline scenario and four times the use of hydropower than that used in the baseline scenario. Greater carbon reductions (CM2; i.e., a 27% reduction) could be achieved with similar measures to CM1 but with more intensive penetration. Final energy demand would need to be cut by 13%, deployment of geothermal power plants would need to be seven times greater than at baseline, and hydropower use would need to be five times greater than the baseline case. Carbon prices under CM1 and CM2 were US$16 and US$63 (2005)/tCO2, respectively. The mitigation scenarios for 2030 both had a small positive effect on gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the baseline scenario (0.6% and 0.3% for CM1 and CM2, respectively). This is mainly due to the combination of two assumptions. The first is that there would be a great increase in coal-fired power in the baseline scenario. The other assumption is that there is low productivity in coal-related industries. Eventually, when factors such as capital and labor shift from coal-related industries to other low-carbon-emitting sectors in the CM cases are put in place, the total productivity of the economy would offset low-carbon investment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Exergy Accounting: A Quantitative Comparison of Methods and Implications for Energy-Economy Analysis
Energies 2016, 9(11), 947; doi:10.3390/en9110947
Received: 29 September 2016 / Revised: 4 November 2016 / Accepted: 10 November 2016 / Published: 14 November 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (3663 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Assessments of the feasibility of decoupling energy consumption from economic growth could benefit from an improved understanding of the size, nature and value of different energy flows. This understanding may be enhanced by focusing upon so-called “useful exergy”—a measure of both the quantity
[...] Read more.
Assessments of the feasibility of decoupling energy consumption from economic growth could benefit from an improved understanding of the size, nature and value of different energy flows. This understanding may be enhanced by focusing upon so-called “useful exergy”—a measure of both the quantity and “quality” of energy (defined here as its thermodynamic ability to perform physical work) at the “useful” stage of the energy conversion chain. Useful exergy flows within national economies are increasingly being quantified and their role in economic activity explored. However, this so-called “exergy economics” field currently lacks a consistent methodology. This paper contributes to the development of a more consistent approach. By constructing a “useful exergy account” for the United Kingdom covering the period 1960–2012, we explore how different methodological choices influence estimates of useful exergy for different categories of end-use as well as estimates of total national useful exergy consumption. Specifically, we evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to: (a) the method of estimating the exergy efficiency of different end-uses; (b) the boundaries between end-use categories; and (c) the method of estimating the primary exergy associated with renewable electricity. We also improve upon the current method of accounting for industrial uses of heat. This leads to suggestions for best practice when constructing useful exergy accounts, and the identification of areas where further methodological development is required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Is ‘Bio-Based’ Activity a Panacea for Sustainable Competitive Growth?
Energies 2016, 9(10), 806; doi:10.3390/en9100806
Received: 13 July 2016 / Revised: 21 September 2016 / Accepted: 27 September 2016 / Published: 10 October 2016
PDF Full-text (1115 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Taking a European Union focus, this paper explicitly models competing uses of biomass to quantify its contribution toward a sustainable low carbon model of economic growth. To this end, a state-of-the-art multisector multiregion modelling tool is combined with a specially developed bio-based variant
[...] Read more.
Taking a European Union focus, this paper explicitly models competing uses of biomass to quantify its contribution toward a sustainable low carbon model of economic growth. To this end, a state-of-the-art multisector multiregion modelling tool is combined with a specially developed bio-based variant of a well-known global database. Employing a decomposition method of the market drivers and classifying alternative future pathways, the aim is to understand how public policies can influence the apparent trade-off between the goals of lower carbon economic growth, environmental preservation and sustainable biomass usage. Results reveal that in targeting specific societal goals public policy can be effective, although this can lead to broader economic issues of resource inefficiency and even direct policy conflicts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Multilevel Index Decomposition of Energy-Related Carbon Emissions and Their Decoupling from Economic Growth in Northwest China
Energies 2016, 9(9), 680; doi:10.3390/en9090680
Received: 11 April 2016 / Revised: 8 August 2016 / Accepted: 22 August 2016 / Published: 25 August 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1439 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Rapid economic growth in Northwest China has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in carbon emissions. Based on the two-level Logarithmic Mean Divisia Index (LMDI) method, this study decomposes changes in energy-related carbon emissions in Northwest China during 1995–2012 from the regional and
[...] Read more.
Rapid economic growth in Northwest China has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in carbon emissions. Based on the two-level Logarithmic Mean Divisia Index (LMDI) method, this study decomposes changes in energy-related carbon emissions in Northwest China during 1995–2012 from the regional and provincial perspectives. Further, by constructing an expanded decomposition model of the decoupling index, this paper quantitatively analyzes delinking indicators of economic activity and environmental pressure in Northwest China. The results indicate that: (1) at both regional and provincial levels, economic activity effects play a crucial role in increasing carbon emissions, whereas improvements of energy efficiency appear as the main factor in curbing carbon missions; (2) the significance of influencing factors of CO2 emissions varies across provinces. The role of economic activity in Shannxi is more pronounced compared to that of the other four provinces, as well as the role of population in Xinjiang; (3) when the decoupling relationship is considered, “relative decoupling” and “no decoupling” are the main characteristics under investigation during the examined period. Whereas “strong decoupling” was only identified in 2007 and 2009; (4) the current extensive pattern of economic growth in Northwest China poses a serious threat to the decoupling process. Furthermore, the coal-based energy structure also hinders the decoupling process. According to these results, some policy recommendations are proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)
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Open AccessArticle Forecasting the Allocative Efficiency of Carbon Emission Allowance Financial Assets in China at the Provincial Level in 2020
Energies 2016, 9(5), 329; doi:10.3390/en9050329
Received: 12 February 2016 / Revised: 27 March 2016 / Accepted: 22 April 2016 / Published: 4 May 2016
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (752 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
As the result of climate change and deteriorating global environmental quality, nations are under pressure to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of GDP. China has announced that it is aiming not only to reduce carbon emission per unit of GDP,
[...] Read more.
As the result of climate change and deteriorating global environmental quality, nations are under pressure to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of GDP. China has announced that it is aiming not only to reduce carbon emission per unit of GDP, but also to consume increased amounts of non-fossil energy. The carbon emission allowance is a new type of financial asset in each Chinese province and city that also affects individual firms. This paper attempts to examine the allocative efficiency of carbon emission reduction and non-fossil energy consumption by employing a zero sum gains data envelopment analysis (ZSG-DEA) model, given the premise of fixed CO2 emissions as well as non-fossil energy consumption. In making its forecasts, the paper optimizes allocative efficiency in 2020 using 2010 economic and carbon emission data from 30 provinces and cities across China as its baseline. An efficient allocation scheme is achieved for all the provinces and cities using the ZSG-DEA model through five iterative calculations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Low Carbon Economy)

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