Digitalization can support and accelerate decarbonization. One principle is technological neutrality. In an interview, Springer author Stefan Niessen highlights possible scenarios and timeframes.

SpringerProfessional: Why do you argue so vehemently for technology neutrality in the decarbonization process?

Stefan Niessen: According to the understanding of our authors’ collective, technology neutrality means that digital decarbonization pursues a holistic approach without committing to specific technologies from the very beginning. Here, our method first considers the range of all technically and regulatory possible technologies. We then use a mathematical optimization procedure to determine the best possible technology mix for the specific situation. As we have often seen, one size does not fit all in decarbonization; there are different resource configurations, economic constraints, geographic circumstances, and societal expectations. There is an analogy that everyone is familiar with in the vegetation and animal kingdoms: depending on climatic conditions and soil composition, a completely different combination of plants and animals prevails. The opposite of technological neutrality here would be to stipulate up front that elephants must live on an island – regardless of whether they can find food there at all.

SpringerProfessional: For a transition, does that include fossil fuel technologies currently in use?

Stefan Niessen: For a transitional period to be defined in more detail and in individual cases, the guiding principle of technology neutrality still includes the use of fossil fuels. Here, our practical examples often indicate that the best decarbonization paths for quite a while include CO2-efficient combined heat and power plants or also gas turbines. Used as peak-load power plants during periods without sunlight or significant wind, gas turbines make up for the generation gap that arises – as in the case of the dark lull that is so well known in the media. Despite technical progress in the area of load flexibilization in industry, flexibilization of electric charging and heat pumps as well as storage technologies, gas turbines as peak load power plants are still indispensable for a secure power supply up to a decarbonization level of a solid 80 percent. […]

Frank Urbansky from SpringerProfessional conducted the interview with Stefan Niessen.

Click here to read the full interview (German version only).