In Pursuit Of Net Zero

Fred van Beuningen

Oct 16, 2019

As published by Clean Tech Delta

We visited the Cleantech Group’s Asia summit in Singapore on October 8th and 9th with a delegation from Rotterdam (Vice Mayor, city officials and entrepreneurs).

I was invited to speak during the opening session and wanted to remind the audience that we need to get honest and on with climate change. We have about 12 years. Thankfully, this was not me saying this but Michael le Page in the New Scientist in his excellent overview article Climate (un)certainty: “Amid the morass of confusing and conflicting numbers, two things remain crystal clear. First, we have to reduce net global emissions to zero, and the faster we do it the better off we will all be. Second, how bad things get partly depends on how much we do to prepare. We need to get serious about adapting to life on a warmer planet”.

I laid out the options we have: adaptation, mitigation and geo-engineering. I focused a bit more on mitigation and talked about the supply and demand-side measures, carbon pricing and storage. It is often overlooked that where the quality (read: density) of our energy sources goes down in comparison to prehistoric solar (fossil), the complexity of our new energy system goes up with decentralised generation, grid balancing, storage and such. Energy may not become cheaper at all.

Key levers for climate change solutions are rapid growth of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) – which we already know will be insufficient to meet growing demand, carbon capture, storage and utilisation, and massive reforestation to rebalance nature’s cycles (subject of my previous blog here).

Clean Tech Delta, together with partners InnovationQuarter, SmartPort and Deltalinqs, has done a global landscaping on CCUS and pulled together the impressive regional know–how. We now work towards a regional programme where other stakeholders from industry and the Port of Rotterdam will get involved too.

Carbon as a resource is one example of disruptive thinking, fusion as source of cheap and abundant energy is another. There are 10+ privately funded projects globally and Canada based General Fusion is the one I know best and believe is most advanced. Lacking natural resources to fuel base load power generation, Singapore is amongst those with a keen interest in fusion technology.

Singapore is also leapfrogging towards a smart city and a recent report of investment bank Goldman Sachs underlined that Asian cities will be on the front lines of climate adaptation, as having less legacy infrastructure than other countries, good collaboration with other ASEAN countries and access to capital provide a good springboard for Singapore.

Now ranked #48 best university worldwide Nanyang Technological University (NTU) not only has one of the world’s greenest campuses, but is also ranked top university globally for AI citations and #6 for engineering citations output. I visited their energy storage, mobility and battery labs. Took away fresh insights on flow batteries, perovskite (solar) and autonomous driving.

I have always been a proponent of finding and adopting best practices. We better deploy fast than invent slow. Clean Tech Delta increasingly participates in EU programs and contributed to the matchmaking between start-ups and corporates in Singapore. Closer to home we have again experienced the depth and breadth of regional experts when we were assessing regional carbon as a resource opportunities. It is important to separate the real from the fluff with experts, look at the fundamental economics of disruptive solutions and build the consortia to pilot and scale these solutions.