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Selected Publication:

Kalt, G; Thunshirn, P; Krausmann, F; Haberl, H.
(2022): Material requirements of global electricity sector pathways to 2050 and associated greenhouse gas emissions
J CLEAN PROD. 2022; 358, 132014 FullText FullText_BOKU

Transforming and expanding the electricity sector are key for climate change mitigation and alleviation of energy poverty. Future energy systems based on renewable energy sources may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but could require more materials during construction. We assess this trade-off by quantifying the requirements of the main bulk materials used in electricity infrastructures for 281 global electricity sector pathways until 2050. We identify main determinants for material requirements and gauge the relevance of socio-economic framework conditions and climate change mitigation regimes. Five selected, highly diverse scenarios are analysed in detail by quantifying their respective annual material stocks and flows, and cumulative GHG emissions to 2050. We find robust evidence that scenarios in line with the 1.5 ? target are associated with significantly higher material requirements than scenarios exceeding a global temperature rise of 2 ?. Material stocks in 2050 differ by up to 30% for copper, 100% for concrete, 150% for iron/steel and 260% for aluminium (3rd quartiles of Monte Carlo simulations), even when the particularly material-intensive "Below 1.5 ?'' scenarios are excluded. Although power plants account for the largest part of the material requirements, grid expansion and reinforcement, necessary to accommodate large shares of volatile power generation and provide universal access to electricity, also cause substantial material demand. In the absence of future GHG mitigation in the processing industries, GHG emissions related to bulk materials (primarily iron/steel and aluminium) could amount to one tenth of the remaining carbon budget for a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 ?. However, if preference is given to material-efficient technologies, low-carbon processes are applied in the industries and increased material recycling is achieved, GHG emissions related to bulk materials in decarbonisation pathways will not significantly exceed those in largely fossil fuel-based scenarios.
Authors BOKU Wien:
Haberl Helmut
Kalt Gerald
Krausmann Fridolin
Thunshirn Philipp
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Find related publications in this database (Keywords)
Material stocks
Material flow analysis
Energy transition
Power sector

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