Technologies Fueling the Energy Transition

The global transition to “clean” or “green” energy sources so as to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels and other harmful resources is well underway. 

As outlined in the Paris Agreement and discussed at COP28, limiting global warming to 1.5°C by rapidly weaning off the production and usage of coal and establishing global renewable power resources (i.e., wind, solar, hydro and geothermal energy) must be accomplished by the end of this century. Consequently, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030.

And while each company, sector, and industry has its individual approaches to reducing carbon emissions and embracing sustainable energy sources, there is a list of technologies C-suite leaders are integrating into their operations so as to become more eco-conscious. In fact, executive conversations regarding these innovations have recently spiked in number within the AlphaSense platform.  

technologies fueling the energy transition document trend
In the AlphaSense platform, we’ve noticed a near-36% increase in documents mentioning “carbon reduction” and “technology” over the past 30 days.

But as deadlines close in for carbon reduction goals, some corporate leaders are still behind on the conversations surrounding sustainability and business eco-efficiency. What innovations are worth investing in to reduce our carbon footprint? Might they benefit not just the environment, but our company as well? How are my industry peers and competitors embracing the energy transition? These are just a few of the questions found within AlphaSense’s ever-growing collection of earning calls. 

Below, we dive into the tech fueling energy transitions around the world and across industries using insights sourced from our platform. 

State of the Energy Transition

Currently, the transition to clean energy is occurring at different speeds across regions and sectors. For example, nearly 95% of global electric car sales in 2022 took place in China, the United States, and Europe. Stronger international cooperation is needed to spread progress on electric cars and other key technologies to all regions, particularly emerging and developing economies. 

The rapid adoption of certain clean energy technologies, like solar PV and electric vehicles, demonstrates the potential for substantial progress with determined policies. Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 requires much swifter transformations across all aspects of the energy system. However, this is not to dispel the significant progress made in the past few years.

Electric car sales reached a record high of more than 10 million in 2022, a nearly tenfold increase in just five years. Renewable electricity capacity additions rose to 340 gigawatts (GW), their largest ever deployment. As a result, renewables now account for 30% of global electricity generation. Investment in clean energy reached a record $1.8 trillion in 2023 according to BloombergNEF, an increase of almost 15% from 2021, demonstrating continued confidence in energy transitions even in an uncertain economic climate.

BloombergNEF also disclosed that together, the EU, US and UK invested more than China in 2023, which was not the case in 2022. Further, investment in the clean energy supply chain hit $135 billion globally in 2023, and could rise to $259 billion by 2025. However, China leads with $676 billion invested in 2023, or 38% of the global total.

technologies fueling the energy transition share of renewable energy generation
Sourced from the International Energy Agency

Further, “the world is on course to add more renewable capacity in the next five years than has been installed since the first commercial renewable energy power plant was built more than 100 years ago,” the International Energy Agency reports. “Almost 3,700 GW of new renewable capacity will come online over the 2023‑2028 period, driven by supportive policies in more than 130 countries.” 

And while globally clean energy deployment is slow, it is occurring faster in some parts of the energy system. For example, in regards to electric passenger cars, manufacturing costs have fallen and the technology required for their widespread adoption is already relatively mature. 

Ultimately, innovation must continue at a rapid pace to introduce clean technologies for sectors of the energy system where reducing emissions is particularly challenging, like heavy industry and long-distance transport. While some progress has been made in recent years, further acceleration is necessary to swiftly bring more low-emissions technologies to these areas of the market.  

Green Tech Fueling the Movement

The most impressive innovations propelling nations and corporations to embrace a net-future go beyond the definition of an “energy alternative.” In fact, some of these technologies can reduce the emissions exerted by power plants relying on fossil fuels, provide negative emissions, and in the longer term, produce carbon-neutral CO2 to create fuel:

  • Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs): A key part of the Department of Energy’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options, these advanced reactors—envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts—can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.
    Advanced SMRs offer small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages.
  • Microgrids: A microgrid is a compact, manageable electricity network consisting of one or more power generation units linked to nearby consumers. It can operate in sync with or independently from the broader high-voltage transmission system, known as the “macrogrid.” Microgrids are considered a type of decentralized power generation because they produce energy (both electricity and heat) near its consumption point.
    Traditionally, microgrids relied on fossil fuel-based technologies like combined heat and power (CHP) systems and reciprocating engine generators. However, modern iterations of this technology are increasingly leveraging sustainable options such as solar and energy storage. Meaning, these microgrids can be powered by renewable sources like solar energy, combustion turbines fueled by natural gas, or emerging technologies like fuel cells and small modular nuclear reactors, pending commercial availability.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): CCS tech utilizes a process designed to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from significant sources like power plants or industrial sites that burn fossil fuels or biomass. Once captured, the CO2 is compressed and transported via pipeline, ship, rail, or truck to be used in various applications or stored underground in deep geological formations like depleted oil and gas reservoirs or saline aquifers.
    Moreover, this technology has the capability to be integrated into current power and industrial facilities, enabling their ongoing functionality. It presents a solution for reducing emissions in challenging sectors, especially in heavy industries such as cement, steel, or chemicals. Additionally, CCUS plays a critical role in facilitating cost-effective production of low-carbon hydrogen, which in turn can aid in decarbonizing various sectors of the energy system, including industry, transportation by trucks, and maritime shipping. CCS also has the potential to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, which helps to offset emissions that are either inevitable or technically complex to mitigate.
  • Green Hydrogen: Green hydrogen, created through the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity, represents a promising avenue for addressing worldwide energy needs while advancing climate change mitigation efforts. Utilizing renewable or nuclear energy, as well as fossil fuels with carbon capture technology, to produce clean hydrogen offers a pathway to decarbonizing sectors that struggle to reduce emissions, such as long-distance transportation, chemical manufacturing, and iron and steel production.
    Adoption of hydrogen-fueled vehicles could enhance air quality and bolster energy security. Additionally, hydrogen serves as a viable means for integrating intermittent renewable energy sources into the power grid, providing a rare option for storing energy over extended periods, ranging from days to months. 
  • Electrolysers: These devices play a pivotal role in generating low-emission hydrogen from renewable or nuclear electricity by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The capacity for electrolysis dedicated to hydrogen production has shown substantial growth in recent years.
    Currently, the mainstay of hydrogen production relies heavily on fossil fuel technologies without carbon capture. However, in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, low-emission hydrogen emerges as a pivotal player in sectors resistant to decarbonization, such as heavy industry and long-haul transportation. Here, electrolysis driven by renewable electricity stands out as the primary method of production.

Conversations from the C-Suite

Discover some of the earnings call conversations C-level executives are having about microgrids, green hydrogen, clean energy, and more—sourced within the AlphaSense platform:

“What I would say is a company that is truly leaning forward in the energy transition, but in a thoughtful and profitable way because ultimately, that transition is only going to materialize with scalable and profitable business models, which is what we are trying to unlock, and that will require us. It will require governments, it will require customers to step to the plate… As a company that is investing in the largest green hydrogen facility in Europe and looking to create real value out of that when others have made promises but have not followed through. And so, it would be a real opportunity to tell our story. But importantly, as well, a reminder that the resolution, while period in its intent, fundamentally hits a few key points for us.

– Shell Plc | Earnings Call Q1 2024

“The other piece that works well also is that the comps to natural gas pricing, which is quite high, actually makes the green hydrogen that comes out of electrolysis, it’s reasonably competitive and therefore, attractive for customers to want to use that to decarbonize. So those factors came together to really provide a great opportunity for us to increase our network density, put an electrolyzer on the ground, and we’re very really happy with that.”

– Linde Plc | Q1 2024 Earnings Call

“I’d like to provide an update on the series of new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last week… The new rules expect generators to rely heavily on carbon capture and storage technologies, which are not ready for full-scale economy-wide deployment. These new rules apply not only to existing coal-fired units, but new gas-fired units with greater than 40% capacity factors as well, which would include the gas combined cycle facility called for in our current IRP in the early 2030s to maintain system reliability.”

“In addition, for coal units retiring between 2032 and 2039, the rules will require natural gas co-firing by 2030. And as we noted in our comments to the proposed rules, co-firing with natural gas presents challenges from a permitting and construction standpoint.”

– Ameren Corporation | Earnings Call Q1 2024

“Looking over the long term, Canadians are demanding more and cleaner forms of energy. In April, the federal government confirmed their intent to have built C59 approved by June 1, 2024. This is the legislation containing provisions for carbon capture, utilization and storage as well as clean technology investment tax credits. These investment tax credits will allow us and our partners to invest with more certainty. Our development portfolio will allow us to capitalize on opportunities in the energy transition and the team is working hard to ensure our path forward is commercially viable and will generate sustainable long-term shareholder value.

– Canadian Utilities Limited | Earnings Call Q1 2024

[In regards to the fragility of the grid, and more specially microgrid market]Producing clean energy and having the transparency backed up with certificates to prove that, it’s going to be normal operating procedure going forward. But if your question is about power generation and partnering with power-generating companies like Bloom Energy, there’s really two different worlds that are going to be servicing this power demand. One is going to be on the grid. And if you want to use that, get in line. You’ve got long queues that you need to work through to get interconnected to the grid.”

“But this other world, which is one of the ones we’re being a little bit more direct with our partnerships to bring solutions to market, is behind the grid power generation solutions. That’s where we can leverage our operational footprint, our existing assets, the pipelines and develop behind the grid energy solutions for customers. We think that could offer a much faster pathway to meeting their energy demands. And as I mentioned before, speed matters.”

– EQT Corporation | Earnings Call Q1 2024

Stay On Top of the Energy Transition with AlphaSense

Global decarbonization is a critical goal for modern corporations, and staying ahead in the race to embrace a net-zero future requires constant market monitoring. To uncover new opportunities and the latest developments related to energy transitions, it’s essential to have a market intelligence platform that informs you of emerging trends and keeps you up to date on the most pertinent events happening around the world.

Discover how AlphaSense can help you stay on the leading edge by starting your free trial today.

Tim Hafke
Tim Hafke
Content Marketing Specialist

Formerly a writer for publications and startups, Tim Hafke is a Content Marketing Specialist at AlphaSense. His prior experience includes developing content for healthcare companies serving marginalized communities.

Read all posts written by Tim Hafke