Will enough be done at COP26 on the ‘Hard to Abate’ Decarbonisation Challenge
05 November 2021
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) has now started in Glasgow, with aspirations for this summit to be a milestone event in the fight against climate change; UK hopes are that this may be seen on par with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set the target to limit global warming to below 2°C.
There have been strong positive announcements so far, despite initial concerns that the reduced presence of major polluters would undermine the impact this summit will have.
The UK, which currently holds the COP Presidency, has focused on the transition from fossil fuels, specifically the phase-out of coal, to clean energy. We have started to see the results of these efforts, with 190 countries and organisations committing to phase out coal and at least 19 countries are preparing to announce a moratorium on public financing for new oil and gas projects. The world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India has announced plans to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of this decade.
These high-level commitments are positive, as is the push by low and middle-income countries to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels to drive their economic growth. However, this broad focus on clean energy should not detract from a critical component of climate change mitigation: the need to decarbonise ‘hard-to-abate’ industries and industrial processes.
Ultimately, these essential industries will continue to exist and be necessary parts of the global supply and value chain and in order to truly decarbonise and achieve net or even negative emissions, solutions must be found for this sector.
Key authorities have noted the critical linkage between clean energy and the decarbonisation of industrial processes. In 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that both the power (primarily coal) and heavy industry sectors accounted for around 60% of annual emissions from existing global infrastructure, with this proportion rising to nearly 100% in 2050 without substantial intervention. In the UK, for example, heavy or ‘foundation’ industries and the energy sector, together, account for 39% of total GHG emissions.
Other markets, such as Canada, Japan and the United States, have also recognised the need for industrial decarbonisation, powered through low-carbon energy. For example, both Canada’s 2020 Climate Plan and Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan confirmed that the sustainable development of that country’s extractive industries and remote communities’ economies relies upon the provision of low-carbon power.
One solution to this unique challenge can be advanced nuclear technologies and the UK’s Nuclear Innovation & Research Office (NIRO) has identified a new generation of High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) as ideally suited to the task.
U-Battery is one such HGTR, and is at the forefront of advanced nuclear innovation, reimagining how we power deep decarbonisation through the delivery of clean energy. We are in the process of developing an Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR).
U-Battery are focused on two, key, initial markets, the UK and Canada. In the UK, what are known as the “foundation industries”, including paper, glass, ceramics and minerals manufacturing, require high temperature process heat for their operations, which currently comes either directly or indirectly from fossil fuels.
In Canada, U-Battery are looking to support resource extraction and mining, which are reliant on diesel generation and need to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels to ensure that they can move to a sustainable, low carbon solution. Likewise, remote, off-grid, communities need affordable, clean, power to sustainably reduce their energy costs.
U-Battery’s reactor is small and would be located on the site where it will be used, making it a locally embedded source of energy. U-Battery produces 10MWt thermal that can be delivered in a cogeneration configuration with up to 4MWt electricity (MWe) and 710° process heat. This is what makes it a suitable product for foundation industries, mining or even producing low-carbon hydrogen and synthetic fuels that will cleanly power transport, homes and industry.
What is important now is that we move from the theory of what is an early-stage technology to showing real progress in the real world. Enabled by funding from the UK Government, a full-size mock-up of U-Battery’s reactor modules has recently been unveiled and this tangible, real-world component demonstrates the progress that it has been made in developing both the capability and experience required to deliver what will be its first power plant in 2028.
There is no better time than during COP26 to appreciate the critical relationship between the equitable decarbonisation of global industries, and the provision of affordable, low-carbon heat and power through advanced nuclear technologies. U-Battery is excited to help industry and communities build a fairer, cleaner economy that will protect our planet and our way of life.
U-Battery is an advanced/small modular reactor, capable of providing a low-carbon, cost-effective, locally embedded and reliable source of power and heat for energy intensive industry and remote locations. It is being developed by Urenco in collaboration with a number of supporting organisations and has received funding from the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's Energy Innovation Portfolio.