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19
Jul
2017

Why is gas central to the energy transition?

“Gas is now central to the energy revolution we are living through”. It was with these words that Isabelle Kocher described the dominant importance of this energy source to the strategic development of ENGIE. So why is ENGIE backing gas to kick-start the energy transition? We look at some of the answers to this question in our series devoted to gas.

Natural gas and its renewable versions are central to our global transition to a low-carbon energy world.

Do you know all the ways in which gas is used? 

ENGIE sees gas as the heart of the energy revolution. Why?

“Climate change and public health challenges, such as air quality, mean that we have to take action now to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce all polluting emissions and move towards a world of more sustainable energy. Our customers and all our stakeholders want us to provide them with affordable, low-carbon energy.

This transition to a world in which 100% of energy will come from renewable sources will take some time yet to achieve, because energy storage technologies, and especially those made possible by gas, must be improved to offer more reliable and more competitively priced energy.

All the expert scenarios, and particularly those of the International Energy Agency (IEA), see gas as playing a dominant role during this period of transition: it releases less greenhouse gas than any other fossil fuel, and its consumption will increase.

Using gas to reduce COemissions

For OECD countries, gas is the only form of energy available in the short term with the ability to deliver massive emission reductions in industry, transportation and power generation. It is therefore a priority to introduce gas to replace coal and fuel oil where these two fuels are still in use, and to develop the renewable green gas industry (biogas, biomethane, etc.).

If we were to use it to replace coal for power generation throughout Europe, the continent’s CO2 emissions would fall immediately by up to 81%. The reduction would be between 40% and 50% for heating if gas were substituted for fuel oil, and 25% for transportation if gasoline were replaced by vehicle natural gas.

Gas is the essential ally of renewables

Natural gas is the ideal and essential partner for the large-scale development of wind power and solar power; renewable sources of energy that are intrinsically intermittent. To cope with peaks in consumption, combined cycle gas (CCG) power plants are already the best backup solution to counter this intermittent availability. Very soon, the development of energy storage solutions will involve the use of hydrogen and natural gas (Power to Gas) infrastructures.

In the longer term, biogas will assume a dominant role by becoming a totally renewable source of energy with zero environmental impact in the form of biomethane, bio-VNG and methane syngas. 100% renewable natural gas is already used in some transportation and district heating systems. The future maturity of these technologies will boost the ability of this green gas to compete in the marketplace.

“There is no scenario compatible with containing global warming to below the 2°C limit which does not make extensive use of natural gas, with increasing reliance on biomethane over the next thirty years”
Didier Holleaux, Executive Vice-President of ENGIE.

Gas at the heart of the energy transition

Gas is therefore absolutely essential: it provides the stability crucial now and in the future for the power supply networks of a decentralized, low-carbon, digital energy system. In its various forms, it provides sustainable and innovative solutions for cities, industries, small and midsize businesses and domestic users. It enables a soft transition to a low-carbon world.

So thanks to gas, the energy transition will ultimately be much less expensive for consumers. That's because although 100% electric is technically possible, it would require massive investment.

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