Zou Ji, CEO & President of Energy Foundation China
The restriction on fossil fuel usage comes with a precondition: the actual energy demand in practical development cannot decrease and may even need to increase. Therefore, the replacement of coal, oil, and gas for power generation needs to occur within the framework of renewable energy development. For countries heavily reliant on coal, the process of “phasing out” may increase pressure by augmenting demands for the intensity and speed of the transition. In intergovernmental negotiations, while keeping the current direction unchanged, a buffer zone is necessary. Achieving a 50%-70% reduction in coal-fired power generation is a feasible goal. However, an immediate reduction to zero would lead to a sharp increase in costs. This aligns with the economic principle of increasing marginal cost, where further reduction becomes progressively more challenging. Hence, there needs to be flexibility in government commitments.
From a technological standpoint, we have not yet observed a fully fossil fuel-free energy system. In the current context, scholars and researchers can certainly design scenarios and goals for “phasing out.” However, personally, I believe that for governments, committing to the outcomes of such “phasing out” may present challenges.