Global climate goals can only be achieved with a major acceleration in clean energy innovation, as many of the technologies needed to reduce CO2 emissions are currently only at the prototype or demonstration stage. This is the conclusion of a joint report published on Tuesday by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“About half of the emissions reductions to reach net zero by 2050 may have to come from technologies that are not yet on the market,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. hurry.
The report “Patents and Energy Transition: Global Trends in Technological Innovation in Clean Energy” examines trends in low-carbon energy innovation between 2000 and 2019 in terms of international patent families (IPFs). An IPF represents a unique invention of great value for which a patent application has been filed with at least two patent offices around the world. Patent applications can be seen as an early indicator of future technological trends as they are filed months or years before products are released to market.
The report found that the number of patents for inventions related to low-carbon energy technologies has increased over the past two decades. However, the average annual growth rate of low-carbon energy patents in recent years is only a quarter of what it was ten years ago. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of patents for inventions related to low-carbon energy technologies around the world grew at an average rate of 3.3% per year. The average growth rate from 2000 to 2013, on the other hand, was 12.5%.
Among the patented technologies, some were already in use on an industrial scale while others were still in the early stages of development, according to the report.
Since 2000, more than 420,000 IPFs have been filed worldwide in the field of low carbon energy. The study found that the focus in the field was moving away from inventions that concerned the supply of renewable energy. Today, patents related to end-use and cross-functional technologies dominate.
The focus shifts from the energy supply
Over the past five years, end-use technologies – those that support energy use or fuel switching in end-use applications such as transportation, buildings, or industrial production – have accounted for the majority (60%) of all low carbon energy. inventions.
Cross-cutting technologies, meanwhile, grew from 27% of all low-carbon energy FPIs in 2000 to 34% in 2019, and have seen the strongest growth of the three sectors since 2017. Enabling technologies play a role. both in the supply and end-use sector, and also helps existing infrastructure to improve its dependence on clean energy. Patents in this area include battery, hydrogen and smart grid technology as well as carbon capture and use. These technologies are of increasing importance due to their ability to connect a variety of clean energy sources. This creates the possibility of more flexible energy solutions.
Patents for energy supply technologies, including renewables, have fallen since 2012. This, the study concludes, is due to the maturity of the market for certain renewable technologies, such as solar PV, and a lack of improvements to others, such as biofuels and ocean energy. Energy supply technologies only accounted for 17% of all low-carbon inventions in 2019.
Electric car trend drives innovation
Electric vehicles have been a key driver of clean energy innovation over the past decade. In the report’s global ranking of patent applicants, automakers and their major battery suppliers accounted for 12 of the top 15 patent applicants over the past 20 years.
In terms of geography, European companies and research institutes currently have the highest number of low-carbon energy inventions, accounting for 28% of patents between 2010 and 2019. Of this total, Germany has registered some. only 12%.
Japanese companies, however, are at the forefront of electric vehicle, battery and hydrogen technology, while the United States is a leader in aviation, biofuel and carbon capture technologies.
“This report is a clear call to action to step up research and innovation in new low-carbon energy technologies and improve existing technologies,” said EPO President Antonio Campinos. “While it reveals some encouraging trends in countries and industry sectors, including in key cross-cutting technologies, it also highlights the need to further accelerate innovation in clean energy technologies, some of which are still emerging. “