Gustavo Bernal Torres
Engineering the Transition to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions
The theme of the National Academy of Engineering’s 58th Annual Meeting, to be held Oct. 2-3, 2022, was “Energy Transitions.”
As we make that big transition, what should the priorities be for engineering? What key technological hurdles still need to be solved for that to happen? The first priority is to deploy known technologies that have been developed over the past 20 or 30 years to address easy-to-decarbonize processes. So what’s easy to decarbonize? HVAC in homes, local transportation around cities, electric vehicles, household appliances, and so on, because we have various solutions already available.
The second priority is research and development and deployment of new technologies to apply to difficult-to-decarbonize processes, which account for about 25% of the U.S. energy consumption. These are sectors like aviation, shipping, long-haul transportation, and energy-intensive manufacturing such as steel and cement. There’s no easy fix for these energy uses.