Steel exemplifies renewable electrification potential for industry: study

Many nations are declaring their desire for energy transition, but low-cost fossil fuels still dominate globally. However, electricity, even that produced from renewables, could become the cheapest energy by 2050, shows a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Steel is a good example of how electricity can reduce carbon emissions.

“80% of all energy demands for industry, mobility or heating buildings is met by burning – mostly fossil – fuels directly, and only 20% by electricity. Our research finds that relation can be pretty much reversed by 2050,” says Gunnar Luderer, main author of the new study, which was published recently in Nature magazine.

Renewable electricity generation – especially from solar photovoltaics – has become cheaper at a pace that most computer simulations have so far underestimated, Kallanish reads in a summary published by the institute. “Over the last decade alone, prices for solar electricity fell by 80%, and further cost reductions are expected in the future. Our computer simulations show that together with global carbon pricing, green electricity can become the cheapest form of energy by 2050, and supply up to three quarters of all demand,” Luderer claims.

“You can electrify more end-uses than imagined, and for those cases actually reduce the energy consumption compared to current levels,” adds co-author Silvia Madeddu. “Take steel production: Electrifying the melting of recycled steel, the so-called secondary steel, reduces the total process energy required and lowers the carbon intensity per tonne of steel produced,” she says.

Hydrogen will be a crucial chain link, as it can flexibly convert renewable electricity into green fuels for sectors that cannot be electrified directly, the study notes. “If these elements come together, the prospects of a renewables-based green energy future look truly electrifying,” Luderer concludes.

Christian Koehl Germany