That means switching every energy-using activity we possibly can to electricity powered by clean energy and everything else to low emissions alternatives (such as switching from coal and oil use to biofuels).
As the Pathways Report indicates, when electricity generation switches to low carbon energy sources, electricity becomes the least emissions intensive energy source.
This drives widespread electrification across transport, buildings and industry, leading to substantial decreases in emissions from these sectors.
As a result, low carbon electricity’s share of the total energy we use increases from 22% today to 46% in 2050. Fuel switching from fossil fuel to bioenergy and from coal to gas drives further emissions reductions.
A switch from natural gas to a low carbon electricity supply eliminates nearly all emissions from buildings by 2050. This involves a move from gas to electricity for all heating, hot water and cooking equipment.
In industry, there is a significant shift from coal and oil use towards electricity, bioenergy and gas. This drives an approximately 60% reduction in energy emissions.
Electricity use triples, driven most significantly by a shift in mining from trucks to electricity-based technologies such as conveyors for materials handling.
Bioenergy is utilised for half of the remaining mining oil use, increasing bioenergy consumption nine-fold compared to 2012 levels
15% of remaining direct fuel use is shifted to biomass/biogas in manufacturing.
Cars and light commercial vehicles shift from internal combustion engines to electric and hybrid drivetrains, and to a lesser extent hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is created through electrolysis so can be considered another form of electrification, so it provides an attractive opportunity for the use and storage of any surplus renewable electricity generation.
Natural gas is used in place of oil extensively for road freight, lowering oil use in the sector by 85% between 2012 and 2050. As a result, CO2 emissions are reduced by two thirds, while vehicle kilometers travelled nearly double.
Approximately 15% of air travel gets replaced by electric fast rail between the large east coast cities. In addition, biofuels replace 50% of oil use in aviation, as it’s the only fuel switch option currently available for this sector.
The marine and rail sectors make a relatively modest switch to gas and biofuels.
In the future, alternative opportunities could include the use of hydrogen to power large trucks, or increased use of biofuels if additional feedstocks are available.
Further information about electrification and fuel-switching in each sector can be found in the Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation: Technical Report.