A report out this week from research firm Navigant is entitled Gas for Climate, which we thought was something of an oxymoron.
The report claims to honestly weigh two scenarios, what it calls “minimal gas” and “optimized gas” in the European Union and says they can both take us to net-zero emissions for electrical energy systems by 2050.
Both scenarios assume an increase in wind, solar and some hydropower, but the two differ when it comes to how gas is used. It is worth pointing out that Navigant was previously run by Jeffrey Eisenach, right up until 2014 and he is known for conservative positions on technologies. He later through NERA, where he still works, consulted for Verizon, at the same time as providing President Trump with advice on the running of the FCC. Essentially he is a lobbyist with the training of an economist. So this puts us on our guard to see if the Navigant work is a thinly disguised attack on Climate change.
The main difference between the scenarios (which we don’t really recognize as accurate), is the EU either deliberately gets rid of gas, but the report assumes that this is only possible by using solid biomass. The other option is a pathway to green gas. The way to make gas green the report says, is either to start with natural gas and take out the carbon before you burn it (it calls this Blue hydrogen), and then to later move to Green Hydrogen, made from water and renewables. Navigant appears to discount the use of energy storage entirely. The report says, “Strong growth in wind and solar PV requires dispatchable electricity production by either solid biomass or gas. Battery seasonal storage is unrealistic even at strongly reduced costs.” Funny but battery is on the verge of reaching parity alongside renewables.
This completely discounts all grid upgrades to operate better with renewables, and the idea of a Virtual Power Plant, which is in advanced trials across Europe. We admit that a VPP uses some gas turbines, but all trials so far use a lot less gas than Navigant is suggesting, and far more battery than it believes is possible. That leads us to conclude that this is a “gas apologist” report, written to support the oil and gas companies’ view that gas is the only way forward, something that has disturbed climate change leaders, as it promotes the use of new gas turbines. The US, where Navigant heralds from, this year has brought online more power through gas turbines, than through renewables – the opposite of practice found in the EU. We have to conclude this is research paid for by the gas industry to give credibility to any energy supplier in the EU that wants to continue to invest in gas. We don’t think it will find many.
It goes on to compare the two strategies and naturally reaches the conclusion that the one with higher and earlier gas levels is more economic. The logic seems to be that in order to beat climate change you should trust an oil or gas company. That makes little sense.
Essentially what Navigant has done here is to discount batteries and VPPs, which are in an advanced stage of development, and push Carbon Capture in combination with Gas Turbines, which is less well developed. But it does make a point we have heard repeatedly, that existing gas grids are reliable and flexible and can be used to transport and distribute renewable methane and hydrogen.
If you want to have a renewables policy informed by people who share the climate beliefs as President Trump, then read this report.