11.2 Technological pathways by sector


11.2.1 Key changes expected in the industrial sector

All reports discuss the complexities of deep reductions in the industrial sector (outside of energy and power production, which is discussed separately below), as well as the challenges to the variety of solutions available. All see a very large role for electrification for low and medium heat (through boilers and heat pumps), but contrary to some other sectors, many applications cannot be electrified with current technologies and thus remain fueled in large part by natural gas. 

Among these applications, cement production and ammonia are cited most often, although the UK also mentions iron and steel blast furnaces. In the other reports, steel furnaces are electrified or the heat is provided by biomass or hydrogen, while iron reduced with hydrogen seems to be a common expectation. For these sectors, CCS is used.

CCS is seen as essential for at least cement and ammonia production and the EU sees a very important role for BECCS in these two sectors. CCS is discussed further for process emissions (see section 11.4.1 below).

11.2.2 Decarbonization of the transport sector

In passenger transport, all reports point to an electrification of all light-duty vehicles by 2050, although the US has some scenarios with lower rates. The EU report mentions that this scenario means that 100% of new sales are electric vehicles sometime in the 2030s. While FR and the UK also discuss the importance of imposing this sales target as early as possible, this point is not mentioned in the US report. 

In commercial transport, hydrogen fuel cell or electric play an important role in long-haul, while the UK report extensively discusses the need to reduce demand for kilometres, through both logistic optimization and societal changes. All reports contain a more general discussion of improvements of energy efficiency in almost all sectors, and notably transport. 

In other modes, rail electrification is a given in the EU, FR and the UK. For aviation, biofuels are significant in all reports, with some importance given to alternative fuels (e.g., ammonia) and synthetic carbon-neutral fuels (e.g., hydrogen with carbon capture). However, FR is more explicit on the prioritization of aviation for the use of biofuels given limited supply, an issue scarcely discussed in the other reports. 

11.2.3 Variations in net-zero pathways for the buildings sector

The role of electric heat pumps grows significantly in both the residential and the commercial sector across all reports. In the UK and EU reports, however, district heating with hydrogen boilers plays a substantial role as well. This is in large part because of space constraints (for heat pump installation). The UK explicitly discusses the assumption of heat pumps being taken up in non-residential buildings, mainly in less heat dense areas where district heating plays a smaller role.

Water heating is rarely discussed across the reports and leads to different aims: The UK sees it as primarily integrated with space heating heat pump systems, while Europe insists on solar thermal for heating water.