The development of GHG emissions and associated raw materials demand is modelled on the basis of assumptions made in the earlier project “Germany in 2050: a greenhouse gas neutral country” . Simulations of raw materials demand include materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores, and non-metallic minerals.
Germany continues to be an economy with a strong industrial base in 2050. Across all sectors of the economy, energy and resource efficiency potentials are assumed to be realized.
In 2050, energy supply is based completely on renewable energy carriers. Economy-wide application of a range of power-to-X technologies makes it possible to use carbon-neutral electricity in the electrolysis of water and subsequent catalytic synthesis of hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce fuels for heating or transport or for substituting hydrocarbon compounds in the chemical industry.
Heat for buildings will be supplied by heat pumps or via district heating networks, running on electricity generated from wind or water or using biogenic waste and residues. At the same time, buildings become a lot more energy efficient. Each year, 2.6 per cent of the existing building stock will be refurbished to meet building energy efficiency requirements. Residential buildings are air-conditioned using passive measures such as shades or insulation instead of conventional electricity-based cooling systems. For most of the buildings, heating demand can be limited to less than 50 kWh/m2.
The energy transition extends beyond the power and heating sector to include fuel supply for passenger and freight transport. Fossil fuels are gradually replaced by fuels on the basis of renewable energy carriers (E-mobility and vehicles powered by PtX systems). Further changes in the transport sector are induced by reducing traffic, increasing the share of more environmentally friendly modes of transport and improving fuel efficiencies. Up to 2050, combustion engines will be gradually replaced by electric drives in order to use electricity in the most efficient manner and without further conversion to PtL-based fuels.
In the industrial sector, as well, energy supply is switched to carbon-neutral energy carriers that provide heat and electricity. Power-to-x technologies are commonly used to cover the demand for various energy carriers required for different technologies. Greenhouse gas emissions coming directly from industrial processes are also tackled as far as possible by scaling up new and innovative processing technologies in the non-ferrous metal, chemical, cement, and lime-producing industries.
In agriculture, there is a limited potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by technical measures, such as reducing the use of mineral fertilizer or manure management. More ambitious emission cuts can only be achieved by reducing the amount of livestock, which ultimately requires a different lifestyle with less meat consumption. Starting in 2020, 5 per cent of the agricultural area in drained marshlands will be restored. Peat extraction will be stopped by 2050. The German forests remain a net carbon sink, according to a simulation in the Nature Protection Preference Scenario in the WEHAM model (German: “WaldEntwicklungs- und HolzAufkommensModellierung” = forest development and timber harvest potential model). Land requirements for settlements and transport are reduced to net zero by the year 2050.
Modelling results: greenhouse gas emissions
By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions are cut back by 95 per cent compared to 1990. In 2030, emissions are 60 per cent and in 2040 80 per cent lower than in 1990.
Until 2050, energy related greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to zero as fossil fuels are substituted by renewable energies, including heating and transport. In the industrial sector, some GHG emissions from manufacturing processes remain. These make up about 28 per cent of all GHG emissions in 2050. With a share of 55 per cent in total GHG emissions, the agriculture sector will then be the largest contributor to emissions.
Modelling results: raw material consumption
The transition sketched out above has multiple effects on raw materials consumption. Currently, non-ferrous minerals and fossil commodities make up the dominant share of primary raw material consumption in Germany. As a consequence of the transition in the energy system, the demand for fossil raw materials will be significantly reduced. Energy saving measures, a wider use of secondary raw materials and improved manufacturing processes also help to reduce total raw materials demand.
During the process of energy sector reconstruction, there will be peaks in the global demand for some materials such as copper. In the long run, however, demand stabilizes at a lower level.
Hence, the construction of a carbon-neutral energy sector results in a temporarily higher demand for some raw materials, such as steel, concrete or copper, but also in less demand for fossil commodities. Raw materials required for the installation of renewable energy systems become part of the anthropogenic stock and can be reused. The future size and composition of the anthropogenic stock and the saving potential for primary raw materials depends, amongst others, on the technologies applied throughout the economy.
In the GreenEe scenario, a GHG emission reduction by 95 per cent in 2050 (relative to 1990) results in a 60 per cent reduction in primary raw material demands (compared to 2010). Triggering the technological and societal transition outlined in the GreenEe scenario described above requires a number of concrete guiding principles:
- Promote ambitious climate and resource policy targets and strategies globally,
- Phasing out, in a timely manner, the use of fossil energy carriers,
- Extend the share of renewable energies steadily and in an ambitious way, opt for energy efficient sector coupling technologies and integrate these over the outlined time-periods into the energy sector,
- Substitute fossil raw material early on in long-living products by means of synthetic hydrocarbons produced on the basis of renewable energy (PtX),
- Energy and resource efficiency potential has to be realized consistently across all sectors.
The scenario confirms that greenhouse gas abatement measures can contribute to resource efficiency, and vice versa. The phasing-out of fossil energy use has a particularly strong effect in this regard. Speeding up the expansion of renewable energies, consequently, makes sense for furthering both GHG abatement and resource efficiency. With regard to stabilize resource demand, the construction of new renewable energy installations should happen at a steady pace.
GreenEe results have been published in October 2017 in conjunction with a symposium. Final results from all five scenarios will be presented at an international conference in Berlin in September 2019.