Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

How Can the Gas Sector Contribute to a Climate-Neutral European Energy System? A Qualitative Approach

Version 1 : Received: 22 October 2018 / Approved: 23 October 2018 / Online: 23 October 2018 (09:57:39 CEST)
Version 3 : Received: 10 March 2019 / Approved: 11 March 2019 / Online: 11 March 2019 (10:57:33 CET)
Version 4 : Received: 19 March 2019 / Approved: 19 March 2019 / Online: 19 March 2019 (10:30:53 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Journal reference: Energy, Sustainability and Society 2019, 9
DOI: 10.1186/s13705-019-0207-2

Abstract

Background: Mitigating climate change requires fundamentally redesigned energy systems where renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels such as natural gas by 2050. Just how exactly this renewable energy will be transported to end users and how supply and demand will be balanced are still subject to lively debate. In this context the gas sector underlines its capability to contribute and claims its role in the EU energy system beyond the age of the fossil fuel natural gas. But on which specific arguments is this claim based and which enabling factors need to be considered? Methods: We take a two-step approach: We begin with a theoretically guided review of studies from energy industry and academic sources to discuss pros and cons from a holistic energy system design point of view. We then enrich our review with the results of an empirical focus group process, which leads us to possible enabling factors for unlocking the contributions of the gas sector to a climate-neutral energy system exemplified for Austria. Results: Beyond the widely acknowledged potential of the gas infrastructure for balancing growing renewable electricity generation and demand, we find that renewable gas could be a means to transport renewable energy to end users, and that it could be done using existing infrastructure. This could reduce the costs for society, increase public acceptance and ultimately speed up the transition to a climate-neutral energy system. However, this hinges on a supportive regulatory framework for energy markets and usage and on optimized resource utilization across the society as enabling factors. Conclusion: Developing a climate-neutral EU energy system will mean investing large amounts of money and completely overhauling our current system. The entire energy supply chain across various energy vectors must be optimized. This will require a technology-neutral and holistic approach. The regulatory framework must provide investment conditions that respect these principles. If it does, renewable gases could make a valuable contribution to achieving climate goals in an efficient, timely and publicly acceptable manner.

Subject Areas

climate neutrality; renewable gases; renewable hydrogen; renewable methane; biomethane; power-to-gas; energy transition; energy system; energy policy

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