Futuribles Journal n° 436

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement

Technical Progress — the Key to the Energy Transition? What Technologies, for what Sectors and on what Timescale?


Though there is broad scientific consensus today on the reality of climate change, not everyone takes the same view of how we can deal with it. As in any major crisis, views differ, depending on whether one is among the pessimists, who fear the worst and sometimes go so far as to adopt ‘survivalist’ positions, or the optimists, who believe that we shall eventually adapt and find solutions, in particular by dint of technical progress. Are these optimists with their firm belief in ‘technological solutionism’ right? Will technical progress be there for us when we need it to help carry through energy transition?

In this second instalment in the series Futuribles is devoting to climate and energy questions, Pierre Papon examines the different paths opened up by technological progress to enable our modes of energy production to evolve. He first reminds us of the slowness of energy transitions (as attested by History), then stresses that ‘decarbonizing’ energy very much depends on ‘decarbonizing’ the production of electricity, a key factor here being the storage required to cope with the intermittent character of renewable energies. He specifies the different technological developments or breakthroughs that may be envisaged in this field, as well as in nuclear power (which counts among non-carbon-based energy sources), the timescale on which they could be achieved (rarely before 2050), and the obstacles they might encounter. One major uncertainty remains: how are we to achieve carbon neutrality in industry? All in all, a little hope and a long wait…

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