IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

4.5.6 Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, plus Deployment (RD3)

Future investments in RD3 will, in part, determine:

  • future security of energy supplies;
  • accessibility, availability and affordability of desired energy services;
  • attainment of sustainable development;
  • free-market distribution of energy supplies to all countries;
  • deployment of low-carbon energy carriers and conversion technologies;
  • the quantities of GHGs emitted for the rest of this century; and
  • achievement, or otherwise, of GHG stabilization concentration levels.

Technology can play an important role in reducing the energy intensity of an economy (He and Zhang, 2006; He et al., 2006). In addition to new and improved energy-conversion technologies, such concepts as novel supply structures, distributed energy systems, grid optimization techniques, energy transport and storage methods, load management, co-generation and community-based services will have to be developed and improved (Luther, 2004). The knowledge base required to transform the energy supply and utilization system will then need to be created and expanded.

Major innovations that will shape society will require a foundation of strong basic research (Friedman, 2003). Areas of generic scientific research in material-, chemical-, bio-, and geo-sciences that could be particularly important to energy supply need to be reviewed. Progress in basic research could lead to new materials and technologies that can radically reduce costs or reveal new approaches to providing energy services. For example, the development of fibre optics from generic research investment resulted in their current use to extract greater volumes of oil or gas from a reservoir than had been previously possible.

Cross-disciplinary collaborations between many scientific areas, including applied research and social science, are needed for successful introduction of new energy supply and end-use technologies necessary to combat the unprecedented challenge of supporting human growth and progress while protecting global and local environments. Integrating scientific progress into energy and environmental policies is difficult and has not always received the attention it deserves (IEA, 2003a). Successful introduction of new technologies into the market requires careful coordination with governments to encourage, or at least not to hinder, their introduction. There is no single area of research that will secure a reliable future supply of energy. A diverse range of energy sources will be utilized and hence a broad range of fundamental research will be needed. Setting global priorities for technology development should be based on quantitative assessments of possible emissions and their abatement paths, but guidelines would first need to be developed (OECD, 2006a).