22 June, 2017

Foot off the gas: increased reliance on natural gas in the power sector risks an emissions lock-in


Jasmin Cantzler, Andrzej Ancygier, Fabio Sferra, Michiel SchaefferBill Hare, Matt Beer

To achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal, the power sector needs to rapidly transition to being carbon-free by around 2050.

This requirement for a complete CO2 emissions phase-out, combined with increasing competition from renewables, results in a dwindling role for natural gas in the power sector towards the middle of the century despite its ability to balance variable renewables.

Despite this, many continue to project an increase in gas consumption. Governments and companies are planning significant investments in new natural gas infrastructure, locking in a dependency on fossil fuels, while ignoring the increasing role of low-carbon alternatives.

This increase in investments, combined with a demand that is likely to decrease, will lead to significant stranded assets in a Paris
Agreement-compatible future.

Natural gas is often perceived as a ‘clean’ source of energy that complements variable renewable technologies. However, fugitive emissions during gas extraction and transport are an on-going problem. There are numerous options for integrating renewables that reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for natural gas in the power sector.