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Emerging sustainable technologies

How were the technologies selected?

Current efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in 2015 at the  COP 21 in Paris, are insufficient. 

The IPCC 2021 report — like all other forecasting efforts — makes no mention of possible breakthrough technologies which could emerge and speed up our pathway to carbon neutrality. One could consider this a conservative approach, justified by the huge difficulty of predicting the next technology breakthroughs and their potential.  

A Look Back to Sustainable Technologies

We propose you to  look back at technologies we highlighted in previous editions of our Emerging Sustainable Technologies report.  

A qualitative evaluation is given based on our experts’ insights into the technologies that are constantly evolving. In this second part of the report, we illustrate how many of these technologies have rapidly gained in maturity, enhancing their potential to speed up our pathway to carbon neutrality and prove the roadmaps wrong.

How were the technologies selected?

We have tried several methods to pick them in an ‘objective’ manner using quantitative indicators such as the number of publications and of patents, mentions in other reports and in press releases. However, we have not found any one quantitative method that was satisfying on its own.

In fact, using ‘objective’ quantitative measures results in mostly digital solutions dominating the selection due to the enormous work being carried out worldwide on our digital transformation. If ENGIE adopted the same approach we would, in effect, all be reporting the same and add little value.

Instead, we decided to trust the insights of our ENGIE experts in a wide variety of domains to compile this selection. This approach implies a degree of subjectivity, reflecting our unique ENGIE expertise in game-changing scientific and technological trends in energy-related activities. 

What happened to the technologies featured in previous reports?

A qualitative evaluation is given based on our experts’ insights into the technologies that are constantly evolving. In the Look back section, we illustrate how many of these technologies have rapidly gained in maturity, enhancing their potential to speed up our pathway to carbon neutrality and prove the roadmaps wrong.

Others, meanwhile, either mature at a slower speed or fail to live up to the expectations they raised at the time — a reminder how notoriously difficult it is to accurately evaluate the potential of new technologies. It also means we have to be ready to change direction if early hopes are not fulfilled. 

No technology has the potential to rise to this challenge on its own. It is therefore essential to explore a variety of solutions relating to energy production, transport, storage and use. 

The challenge is also too vast for a single person/company/sector to handle on their own — working together is key.

The main purpose of this document is to help inspire a new sense of collaboration between all the players in this hugely important endeavour. 

Disclaimer: please note that the incorporation of a certain technology does not imply that it is part of ENGIE’s strategy towards carbon neutrality.

Discussion / Questions

Feel free to contact us :

Dr. Jan Mertens, Chief Science Officer @ENGIE, Visiting Professor @Ugent

Dr. Elodie Le Cadre Loret,  Lead Science Advisor @ENGIE

Download the 2021 Sustainable technologies PDF
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You can also download the 2020 and 2019 emerging sustainable technologies PDF by clicking on the past years links.

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