The 2023 Emerging Sustainable Technologies report in 5 questions

By ENGIE - 13 February 2023 - 16:56

ENGIE has been publishing its Emerging Sustainable Technologies report for the last seven years. Disruptive production of low-carbon hydrogen, reforestation, geo-engineering, managing materials for solar panels and batteries… we take a look at our 2023 edition!


What is the Emerging Sustainable Technologies report?

  • A report written by scientific experts at ENGIE since 2016
  • An explanation of emerging sustainable technologies, trends and solutions to support the energy transition to carbon neutrality. The aim being to reduce global warming.
  • An educational guide written for a wide readership, with short clear explanations, diagrams, graphs, and infographics.


What are the emerging technologies in 2023?

This year our experts identified five technologies, two of which involve hydrogen, produced (i) from methane pyrolysis, and also (ii) directly from solar energy. Our report also focuses on more prospective technologies like space-based solar power, which is collected in a high earth orbit - using a satellite, for example - then beamed wirelessly to Earth. Finally, it presents an entirely circular concept of producing e-fuels from carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and renewable electricity. 


Integrated systems are the future of our energy system. What are they?

They are complex systems integrating a variety of technologies. For example, the close relationship between gas and electricity networks, or agricultural biowaste being used to make biogas in anaerobic digestion units, which is then injected into the gas network to heat people's homes. Molecules produced from renewable electricity (solar, wind, or biomass, etc.) will be used to store and transport renewable energy, and to make heavy industry and mobility (through green hydrogen for example) carbon neutral. 


How can integrated systems also be circular?

Circularity is a central component of this integration, as demonstrated by CirculAIR fuels, a promising emerging technology. We use low-carbon electricity - produced from wind turbines or photovoltaic panels, for example - to make e-fuels (e-methane, e-kerosene, and e-methanol). How do we do this? Through a CO2 and H2 reaction in a reactor. 
This reaction can also create water, which can in turn produce hydrogen. 
In addition to water, the reaction creates heat which can be used to capture CO2 in the air (direct air capture). 
CirculAIR fuels are therefore a very interesting source of circularity, with additional advantages such as providing drinking water in arid areas.


Is geo-engineering worth considering now?

With over 1,700 carbon dioxide removal projects worldwide, geo-engineering is a technological trend that is no longer just a taboo subject. The Emerging Sustainable Technologies report provides an insight into the controversy surrounding these technologies and suggests more research is done on their true environmental benefit and possible harm. However, these technologies are by no means an excuse to pursue our fossil fuel-based economy.


Why does the report also include nature-based solutions?

These solutions will play a role in achieving the transition together, as the latest IPCC report confirmed. This is particularly true for reforestation and protection of coastal ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass beds, etc.), which are valuable natural carbon sinks, and soil carbon storage through specific agricultural management practices.

"The report calls for collective international action. Researchers must work together to fight climate change while industry must seize the solutions needed to achieve the goal of a net zero carbon society. How? By industrialising existing technologies, by developing low-carbon hydrogen production technologies, and by managing immediately the shortage of materials needed to make photovoltaic panels and Li-ion batteries."  
Jan Mertens and Elodie Le Cadre Loret, who co-directed the 2023 Emerging Sustainable Technologies report at ENGIE Research & Innovation