Calculation of the Extra Capacity Required of Non-Fossil Fuel Power Generation Systems to Completely Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Research Article

Austin Environ Sci. 2022; 7(1): 1071.

Calculation of the Extra Capacity Required of Non-Fossil Fuel Power Generation Systems to Completely Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Michaux SP*

Circular Economy Solutions KTR, Geological Survey of Finland, Finland

*Corresponding author: Simon P. Michaux, Circular Economy Solutions KTR, Geological Survey of Finland, Finland

Received: December 13, 2021; Accepted: March 07, 2022; Published: March 14, 2022


The task to phase out fossil fuels is now at hand. Most studies and publications to date focus on why fossil fuels should be phased out. This paper presents the physical requirements in terms of required non-fossil fuel industrial capacity, to completely phase out fossil fuels, and maintain the existing industrial ecosystem. The existing industrial ecosystem dependency on fossil fuels was mapped by fuel (oil, gas, and coal) and by industrial application. Data was collected globally for fossil fuel consumption, physical activity, and industrial actions for the year 2018.

The number of vehicles in the global transport fleet was collected by class (passenger cars, buses, commercial vans, HCV Class 8 trucks, delivery trucks, etc.). The rail transport network, the international maritime shipping fleet, and the aviation transport fleet were mapped, in terms of activity and vehicle class. For each type of vehicle class, the distance travelled was estimated. Non-fossil fuel technology units that are commercially available on the market now were assembled to substitute fossil fuel supported technology. An example was selected to represent each vehicle class, for Electrical Vehicle and Hydrogen fuel cell systems. The requirements to substitute the ICE rail network and the maritime fleet with EV and hydrogen fuel cell systems were presented.

The quantity of electrical power required to charge the batteries of a complete EV system was estimated. The quantity of electrical power to manufacture the required hydrogen for a complete H-cell system was estimated. An examination and comparison between EV and H-cell systems was conducted. Other fossil fuel industrial tasks like electrical power generation, building heating with gas and steel manufacture with coal were mapped and requirements for non-fossil fuel substitution were out estimated. The estimated sum total of extra annual capacity of non-fossil fuel power generation to phase out fossil fuels completely, and maintain the existing industrial ecosystem, at a global scale was 37670.6 TWh. If the same non-fossil fuel energy mix as that reported in 2018 is assumed, then this translates into an extra 221 594 new non-fossil fuel power plants will be needed to be constructed and commissioned. To mitigate intermittency of supply issues (from wind and solar) for just 4 weeks of production, global stationary power storage would require to be an estimated 574.3 TWh in capacity (or 74.6 million 100MW capacity stations).

Keywords: Energy; Fossil fuel; Oil; Gas; Coal; Nuclear; Solar photovoltaic; Solar thermal; Wind; Hydroelectric; Transport; Vehicle fleet; Kilometers driven; Electric Vehicle; Hydrogen fuel cell; Power generation; ICE; Rail; Shipping; Aviation


ICE: Internal Combustion Engine; EV: Electric Vehicle; H2-Cell: Hydrogen fuel cell; kWh: kilowatt hour; TWh: Terawatt hour; MW: Megawatt; RoW: Rest of World; LHS: Left Hand Side; RHS: Right Hand Side; Tonne: 1000kg; km: 1000m; tkm: tonne-kilometer; tonnes transported over one kilometer; kJ/passenger-km: Kilojoules per passenger transported over one kilometer; kJ/tonne-km: Kilojoules per tonne transported over one kilometer; GT: Twenty-foot equivalent is an inexact unit of cargo capacity, often used for container ships


Fossil fuels are to be phased out as they are widely recognized to be the origin of the industrial pollution that causes global warming the generation anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, also termed climate change. Climate change has happened in the planetary system through many geological cycles. A school of thought, now backed by legislation for mitigation, proposes that human industrialization is driving the current warming cycle [1]. The largest driver of warming is the emission of greenhouse gases, of which more than 90% are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, and gas) for energy consumption is the main source of these emissions, with additional contributions from agriculture, deforestation, and industrial processes.

In 2018 the European Commission released a strategy to become climate neutral by the year 2050 [2]. The EU had recently agreed to a new renewable energy target of 32 % by 2030 [2]. The large-scale deployment of renewables will decentralize and increase electricity production. By 2050, more than 80% of electricity will be coming from renewable energy sources, with electricity providing for half of the final energy demand in the EU.

There are a number of issues and concerns associated with the continued use of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal). The use of fossil fuels has been linked to the production of CO2 gases and carbon pollution, as a driving force behind climate change. Also, fossil fuel energy sources are finite natural resources. A school of thought is that all fossil fuels will deplete over time and reach peak production, thus become unreliable as a stable source of economically viable energy. This school of thought proposes that the oil and gas industry could soon become unreliable in energy supply [3], and the ‘after oil’ plan is required to be operational in the next few years. So according to two very different paradigms, fossil fuels are required to be replaced as a matter of urgency.

This paper addresses the challenges around the ambitious task of phasing out fossil fuels (oil, gas & coal) that are currently used in vehicle Internal Combustion Engine technology (ICE) and for electrical power generation. The question posed was, if all fossil fuels were completely phased out, what would be required in context of all the industrial tasks done by oil, gas, and coal if they were performed by ‘green’ non fossil fuel technology. So, an estimate of the following was conducted [4]:

• Number of vehicles, by class in the current ICE system, to be replaced by Electric Vehicles (EV’s) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (H2-Cell).

• Number and size of batteries that would be needed, and the estimated electrical power required to charge them over the set time frame.

• An understanding of the EV to H2-Cell transport fleet split, when one system would be used over the other.

• The size of the required hydrogen economy, based on some basic assumptions.

• Estimates of a completely non-fossil fuel rail transport network (both EV & H2-Cell).

• Estimates of a completely non-fossil fuel maritime shipping fleet (both EV & H2-Cell).

• Estimates of phasing out of fossil fuel industrial applications (like gas and coal electricity generation, and heating of buildings).

• Then an estimate of the number of non-fossil fuel electrical power generation stations was estimated.

The size if the task before us could then be assessed. This paper has been based on Scenario F from the report published by the Geological Survey of Finland [4].

Materials and Methods

The focus of this paper was to model the viability of the new nonfossil fuel global ecosystem using calculations made specifically for the three most significant economies in a global context: The United States (US) economy; the European (EU-28) economy; and the Chinese economy. The Rest of the World (RoW) was also estimated All of these were summed together to estimate the Global Economy footprint [4].

A bottom-up approach (as opposed to the typical top-down approach) was used to make the calculations presented here. The approach was to examine the industrial ecosystem across one calendar year. The following calculations were conducted and assembled.

1. A mapping of the industrial ecosystem was done in context of the annual consumption of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) and the physical tasks done industrially. This includes the quantity of electricity generated, buildings heated, number of vehicles, their class type, and the annual distance traveled by each vehicle class. Also included was the distance travelled and freight carried by the rail network. The international maritime shipping fleet was also mapped in this context. A direct link between all of these physical tasks and the quantity (and type) of fossil fuel was made.

2. Determination of the true scope of useful work done for each task that used fossil fuels. Given that each energy source has an efficiency of energy delivered compared to their potential energy content (calorific value), an assessment of what useful work was actually done.

3. A list was assembled of non-fossil fuel supported technology units that can be used to substitute fossil fuel powered technology units. For example, the ICE vehicles could be substituted by EV’s and H2-Cell powered vehicles. The performance characteristics of each were also collected.

4. Calculate the quantity of electrical power needed to support the substitute non-fossil fuel technology units. For example, how much electrical power would be required to charge the batteries in the global fleet of EV’s vehicles, or would be required to manufacture the required quantity of hydrogen? Sum all industrial tasks together into one number to represent the extra electrical power generation capacity required.

5. Using same global energy mix proportion of non-fossil fuel electrical power generation stations as 2018, determine how many new non-fossil fuel power stations are needed, by upscaling that proportional mix to the quantity required.

Where possible, all data reported here were sourced for the year 2018. Due to the quarantine restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic, 2019 could be the last year of ‘normal’ operation for the global ecosystem.

The Existing Industrial Ecosystem Fossil Fuel Consumption

The global resources consumed to produce energy are shown since the beginning of the industrial revolution in Figure 1. Note the majority proportion has always been fossil fuels and still is. Also note that the sum of all the demand for energy resources has been increasing consistently in a near exponential fashion (as opposed to society becoming more efficient and reducing fossil fuel resources as technology developed). Note the radical increase in global energy consumption since 1950.