Key technological pathways to net-zero


The results presented in Chapters 6 through 8 show both the variety in technologies required to reach net-zero objectives and the relative importance of each technological pathway in given sectors, based on a large number of assumptions respecting cost evolution and technical characteristics. Given the uncertainties inherent in forward-looking exercises of this kind, specific key assumptions about technological developments could have important implications for the results. This chapter delves further into four pathways identified in the modelling results to provide a more refined analysis of how these transitions could proceed for the following technological shifts should some assumptions turn out differently. More specifically, these four pathways explore electrification, bioenergy, hydrogen and carbon capture.


  • Sensitivity analyses performed on key technological pathways show that the net-zero future is not determined and may take different forms.
  • A significant quantity of electricity generation can be avoided through increased provincial interconnections, helping to reduce pressure on generation capacity to accommodate increased average and peak demand.
  • Imposing constraints on storage and variable generation favours nuclear from a cost optimal allocation perspective, but uncertainties about SMRs and social acceptability means that these projections must be viewed with a critical eye.
  • Social acceptability is also a major unknown when considering expanding hydroelectric generation, especially with extensive reservoirs.
  • The assumed available quantities of biomass greatly affect the energy system, including the transport sector, electricity and hydrogen production in NZ scenarios, as biomass electricity generation coupled with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) provides a relatively cheap solution for negative emissions.
  • More specifically, larger quantities of available biomass lead to more BECCS, reducing pressure for the use of DAC when approaching net-zero; the opposite is true for a future with less biomass available, underlining the need for careful management of this resource
  • The specific mix of technologies used to produce hydrogen—biomass with CCS or electrolysis—is strongly dependent on both the availability of biomass and the cost evolution of electrolysis.
  • Increasing hydrogen penetration leads to increased use in most transport applications as well as some industrial sectors.
  • The very large quantity of carbon capture, including through direct-air capture, required to reach net-zero can be achieved in various ways; the technological possibilities in capturing industry emissions are uneven across sectors.