Power and propulsion engineering company Rolls-Royce has announced its plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, at the latest.
The company’s actions and the development of new low-carbon technologies will enable the users of such products to, in turn, lower their carbon emissions, enabling an accelerated take-up of sustainable fuels and driving step-change improvements in efficiency, the company states.
Rolls-Royce states that its existing and new products, used in the aviation, shipping and power generation industries, power some of the most carbon-intensive parts of the economy.
As such, the company is announcing plans to make all its new products compatible with net zero by 2030, and all its products in operation compatible by 2050.
Rolls-Royce is also introducing short-term targets, linked to executive remuneration, to accelerate the take-up of sustainable fuels, which have a key role to play in the decarbonisation of some of the company’s markets, especially long-haul aviation.
In the meantime, the company points out that it is well advanced with net zero and zero-carbon technologies across its power systems portfolio and, as a result, has sufficiently reliable data to be able to define a science-based interim target to reduce, by 35%, the lifetime emissions of new products sold by the business by 2030.
Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East says the company believes in the positive, transforming potential of technology. “We pioneer power that is central to the successful functioning of the modern world. To combat the climate crisis, that power must be made compatible with net zero carbon emissions.”
He adds that Rolls-Royce’s products and services are used in aviation, shipping and energy generation, where demand for power is increasing as the world’s population grows, becomes increasingly urbanised and more affluent, thereby requiring more electricity.
However, East also highlights that these sectors are also among those where achieving net zero carbon is the hardest.
“We believe that, as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and looks to build back better, global economic growth can be compatible with a net zero carbon future and that Rolls-Royce can help make that happen.”
Rolls-Royce is innovating across multiple areas simultaneously, expanding its collaboration with partners, industry leaders and governments across the three critical systems in which it operates – transport, energy and the built environment – to accelerate progress.
These hard-to-abate sectors are all identified by the United Nations (UN) Race to Zero as requiring technological breakthroughs to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 oC.
UN High Level Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping says that, by organising its industrial technology capabilities to deliver the system change society needs, Rolls-Royce is putting itself at the forefront of the defining economic opportunity of modern time; one that customers want to buy, investors want to back, and the brightest talent want to apply their skills to.
Rolls-Royce has many years of experience in developing solutions to some of society’s toughest technological challenges, having made what it says is the world’s most efficient large civil aero-engine in service currently – the Trent XWB, and its successor – the UltraFan, earmarked to be 25% more efficient than first generation Trent engines.
In addition, the company has built a microgrid business and designed a small modular reactor power plant with the potential to transform how cities or industrial processes are powered.
Rolls-Royce is also investing in battery storage technology, demonstrating fuel cells and building a significant position in all-electric and hybrid-electric flight platform.
In this regard, in July, the company’s Spirit of Innovation all-electric plane will take flight as it prepares to break the world all-electric flight speed record.
In developing modern low-emission technologies, Rolls-Royce is boosting its research and development (R&D) expenditure to pivot towards lower and net zero carbon technologies. This will increase from about 50% of its gross R&D spend currently to at least 75% by 2025.
Further, the company plans to eliminate emissions from its own operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 2030, with some facilities due to achieve this target sooner, such as its production site at Bristol, UK, which is set to be the first Rolls-Royce facility to achieve net zero carbon status, in 2022.
Among its technological innovations is a move away from demonstrators, and towards commercial deals, such as with the UK’s Vertical Aerospace in the urban air mobility market, and with Italian airframer Tecnam and Norwegian airline Wideroe in the all-electric commuter aircraft.
The company is also advancing and selling microgrids, complete with their own battery storage solutions, to help expand the use of renewable energy across remote communities and Rolls-Royce’s energy-intensive digital economy.
Rolls-Royce is also exploring additional functionality through the introduction of fuel cells to provide clean power for industrial vehicles and processes, as well as testing hydrogen fuel cell modules at its power systems facility in Germany, with plans to integrate a 2 MW hydrogen fuel cell by 2023.