Decarbonization in the Energy Sector


Anand Sengupta, Vice President, Strategy and Joint Functions for Industrial Application Services, Siemens Energy, talks to our host, Pranjal Sharma, about reducing and minimizing the all-pervasive carbon footprint and its environmental impact.

Energy decarbonization is mission-critical for the planet. So, what are we doing about it?

As the world's energy sector moves away from fossil fuels toward renewable and green energy sources, industrial companies must address this transition in transformative ways. Suppose the energy industry commits to combating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In that case, it also needs efficient, reliable technologies to succeed and innovative, individual solutions that can be incorporated into wide-ranging decarbonization strategies. A step-by-step holistic yet pragmatic approach toward decarbonization is essential to adapt to new realities and seize emerging opportunities.

Transition sooner rather than later!

The efficiency of existing energy assets must be improved, and the transitioning away from conventional fuels needs to speed up by moving from coal to gas and then to hybrid systems and cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen. As the industry converts to cleaner energy and variable renewable sources like wind and solar become more available, utility companies must ensure that they can balance the power mix and energy sources to ensure affordability, reliability, and sustainability.

Siemens Energy can lead the way to a widely decarbonized world by supporting governments, utilities, and industries to shift to a transformed energy system,
says Anand Sengupta.

Three aspects of technology, energy generation, and power generation, enable energy conversion from one form to another. A good example would be technologies that can support a transport system from the point of supply to the point of use. As energy generation is primarily dominated by the cost of electricity, reducing the use of conventional sources like coal, gas, and heavy oils with very high emission rates that the world is trying to move away from is imperative. However, as the demand for energy increases, companies are not yet equipped to meet the increasing demand for clean energy. A low-footprint fuel like natural gas could serve as a bridge to make the transition easier without really losing an energy supply in the process.

From an economic standpoint, natural gas is becoming cheaper, along with solar and wind. Even nuclear energy effectively uses small model reactors and nuclear fusion to generate infinite power with zero carbon footprint.

Inside the conversion chamber

Energy conversion works in different ways, and it is essential to convert large amounts of energy from one form to another. A good example would be converting electricity from a hydroelectric plant at maybe 220kW to a battery electric car by perfecting the electricity conversion efficiencies. The critical form of overall energy efficiency and cost of electricity standpoint at the point of use becomes effective when large amounts of power can get converted at higher efficiency rates.

Using Molecular powerplay implies moving from energy in terms of electricity to heat. In other words, by using heat pumps, which are basically refrigerators working backward, it is possible to harness the heat that is a by-product of power generation and use it to cool. This heat can be used in industrial processes or for heating solutions in cold countries, thus making the whole system more efficient and less wasteful.

Molecular energy can also be stored in the form of chemical energy and later used in the transport sector, in the chemical or other process industries that require green ammonia. So, energy conversion will play an essential role in the process, supporting taxation policies and incentives that govern different countries and regions.

It is necessary to use a smart combination of technologies and fuel mix. Whether we are looking at transport and mobility in emerging markets or developed markets or the shift towards electric vehicles, we are essentially shifting the footprint of biofuels from individual vehicles to collective power generation units where the load will increase to service electric batteries. When driving efficiency or assessing the carbon footprint, economies of scale also come into play depending on whether one is converting limited power units or megawatts and gigawatts of power. Rapid urbanization that produces carbon in a car is harder to measure and sequester compared to a remote power plant where the carbon emissions can be better managed on a larger scale.

Breakthrough approaches and technologies

The traditional method of improving the efficiency of power generation and energy conversion equipment is aggressively moving into new markets like green energy and blue hydrogen. "In France, we generate hydrogen from a wind farm and deliver that green power to a consumption network. We have the first industrial-scale hydrogen project in the Middle East and Asia, producing hydrogen to help Dubai boast the lowest carbon footprint globally by 2050. We have a demonstrator plant in Chile in Haru Oni with a two-gigawatt wind farm connected to E-methanol production, which is again completely green fuel and will change the landscape of how E-methanol is produced the world over. In Austria, our green hydrogen project is helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the steel industry. In Denmark, a large-scale E-methanol project with a shipping company is helping with less CO2-intensive fuel. We also have the Electrolyzer Electrolysis as one of the key areas we're working on with our Silyzer Electrolyzer, and by eventually moving from the pilot scale to industrial scale will help to allow supply green power to utilities as well," said Anand.

Fast track to COP26

How does decarbonization work as a movement since its usage and application vary widely depending on technology, energy, fuel mix, and governmental policies from country to country?

There is no straight line to reach the COP26 course. As the price of natural gas, oil or alternative fuels vary so widely from country to country, policy regulation and social acceptance would play an essential role in driving consumption from a CO2 unfriendly to a CO2 friendly energy source. Many government grants and subsidies are also putting some social, moral, and economic pressure to move forward.

"We need more activism, however, to ensure we are not hurting the world as we consume more energy and power. Our company's mission is to inspire society by consuming more green energy. We also believe in supporting green initiatives, using the power of technology and collaboration, and scaling up pilots to industrial utility levels. It may be painful right now, but the effort and investment required to decarbonize is really to make our world a better place to live in," Protection Status