A new perspective on decarbonising the global energy system
31 March 2023
The UCL Climate Action Unit helped tailor a report on historic and current trends in the costs of energy technologies into an accessible format for policymakers.
The report "A new perspective for decarbonising the global energy system" was created for the UK-China Cooperation on Climate Change Risk Assessment: a project funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and developed in cooperation with Chatham House.
The report provides a rigorous analysis of the historical cost trends of energy technologies, showing that the decades-long increase in the deployment of key renewable energy and storage technologies (e.g., solar, wind, batteries, and hydrogen) has gone hand-in-hand with consistent steep declines in their costs.
It also shows that, by contrast, non-renewable energy technologies have seen no significant deployment related cost declines over the last 50 years.
By incorporating technology cost trends into a simple, transparent energy system model, the author team has produced new climate mitigation scenarios that starkly contrast to those produced for the IPCC and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Information for policymakers
The CAU worked to test and refine the messages and structure of the report. This was achieved through facilitation of a series of workshops where the main messages coming out of the research were put in front of energy transition experts and policymakers.
The way that these messages did or did not land with policymakers then led to various alterations in the key framing of the research.
The modelling behind these conclusions
Traditional energy models have consistently underestimated the cost reductions and growth potential of key renewable and energy storage technologies. The energy system model deployed in this report used the observed trends between deployment rate and cost reduction over the last fifty years to predict likely future pathways.
The findings highlighted new insights into the potential speed and cost of decarbonising the global energy system is likely to be cheaper than commonly assumed, may not require any declines in economic growth and is achievable without large investments in unproven and potentially expensive technologies.
Read the report in full, and visit our Climate Risk page to find out about more of our work with Chatham House.