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New Technologies, Continuous Innovation Key as World Moves towards Low-Carbon Future, Say Experts

FILE PHOTO: Birds fly over a closed steel factory where chimneys of another working factory are seen in background, in Tangshan, Hebei province, China, February 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Continuous innovation and the development of new technologies will play crucial roles to reduce emissions as the world eyes a low-carbon future, said industry experts at the Singapore Energy Summit.

Speaking at a panel discussion titled "Innovation: Low Carbon Innovations", International Energy Agency (IEA)'s director of energy markets and security Keisuke Sadamori noted in order to achieve a low-carbon future and reach net-zero emissions, new technologies and innovation must play "a very big role".

In the IEA's sustainable development scenario, Mr Sadamori noted that one-third of the emission savings required for reaching net-zero emissions by 2070 come from technologies that are not yet commercially available.

In another assessment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, almost half of all emission savings will come from technologies that are also not available in the commercial market, he added.

Given that this is the case, there is a need for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to contribute to solutions for a low-carbon future, said Mr Joseph McMonigle, who is the secretary-general of the International Energy Forum (IEF).

"This is really a call to action for all of the scientists and researchers and entrepreneurs. We need you and we need these new technologies to be created, because the problem is urgent," he said.

"Certainly, the energy transition is inevitable. But in order for us to meet our goals, we have a lot more work to do."

Mr Sadamori also pointed out that the technologies behind the "success stories" such as renewable batteries often require "a whole lot" more innovation.

"This may sound counter-intuitive, when we're used to hearing the success stories that we have seen with renewable batteries, or the news about the hydrogen-based steel making," he added.

"But the truth is that these are often technologies that still require a whole lot more innovation. They are today at prototype for the demonstration space. And so the question whether or not we can decarbonise sectors like long distance transport or heavy industries, very much depends on the pace at which these technologies can be be improved, brought to the market, and scaled up."

In particular, about 75 per cent of all emission savings by 2050 from the long distance transport and heavy industries sectors will come from technologies that are not commercially available yet, added Mr Sadamori.

"You can see the degree that we need to rely on premature technologies and the very big role of innovation to solve this situation," he said.

When it comes to Singapore's experience, Professor Andy Hor who is A*STAR's deputy chief executive of research stressed the need for international collaborations to achieve low-carbon economy.

Citing the country's interest in hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage as an example, Prof Hor said this has created "enormous research opportunities for all of us".

"I think this is an enormous challenge for you, for us and for everybody in the world ... I think this is where the innovations have to come and play a very key role," said Prof Hor.

"The Singapore experience is quite clear. Number one, this is where the full system has to come together, and of course, organisational collaborations and cooperations becomes key," said Prof Hor.


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