Chapter 10: Applying the Model

We can use what we know about solar’s success to inform decisions for other low-carbon technologies that are technologically analogous to solar.  The motivation behind this chapter is that we will need many technologies to address climate change, not just solar because a diversity of approaches is likely to enhance effectiveness and minimize adverse consequences. Three technologies have the potential to benefit from the PV global innovation model: 

  1. batteries are well on their way adopting a quite similar path to PV. 

  2. direct air carbon capture and sequestration (DACCS) is an early stage technology with many of the          characteristics that make it amenable to the PV model. 

  3. micro nuclear reactors also have the potential adopt aspects of the PV model but their characteristics are less aligned with PVs than are batteries and DACCS.

The figure above compares the upscaling in PV to upscaling goals for direct air capture technology from Climeworks. Climeworks' goal is to remove 1% of global annual emissions by 2025. Assuming 2025 emissions are similar to the total in 2017, 33 GtCO2, Climeworks would need to deploy about 350,000 of its DAC-18 units by 2025. that rate of scale up (200% per year) is faster than any of the PV companies at their fastest rate of sale up, which include 54% (Sharp), 103% (Jinko), 120% (Suntech), and 129% (Q-Cells).  Still, one should not dismiss it as impossible, as it is not far beyond that range.

After describing each technology, I evaluate the innovation status of each by surveying the landscape of companies and innovation efforts as of late 2018.  Using that information, I apply the nine innovation accelerators from Chapter 9: continuous R&D, public procurement, training the workforce, codify knowledge, disruptive production, robust markets, knowledge spillovers, global mobility, and political economy.  For each accelerator, I code each technology as high, medium, and low, for both the current status and future potential.  Throughout this chapter I focus on the key challenge of scaling up to gigatons worth of removal or of avoided emissions.

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© 2019 Greg Nemet