Technology Can Help in Getting to Net Zero Emissions… but Energy Lock Ins and Social Challenges Loom

26 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2022

Date Written: October 16, 2022


One of the significant developments in the effort to mitigate climate change has been the convergence around the target of Net Zero Emissions (NZE). Major hurdles to be overcome include the enduring focus on economic growth and the vital importance of energy security. The paper outlines the main technologies required to make renewables a reliable alternative, while potentially satisfying desired economic outcomes and maintaining energy security. The path to NZE envisions a massive increase in the installed capacity of renewable energies accompanied by a radical reduction in fossil energies. Storage mechanisms such as batteries, hydrogen, and pumped storage are evaluated. Major impediments to the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources include technological, political, geopolitical, and social lock ins. Since NZE emissions are unlikely to be realized without installing negative emission devices, carbon dioxide removal methods and their concomitant challenges and moral issues are discussed. The strategies of fossil fuel firms as they relate to negative emissions and hydrogen are analyzed. Environmental and social spillovers of cleantech which need to be proactively managed before they inflict irreversible damage are reviewed. The paper cautions against a single metric focus while ignoring concerns over adaptation, rising inequalities, water and food availability, and biodiversity. The diverse implications of the various mitigation technologies are highlighted along with the need to transfer technologies and funds to developing nations to avoid and/or reduce emissions.

Keywords: Net Zero Emissions, Energy storage, Energy Lock ins, Carbon removal, Cleantech problems, Emission metrics

Suggested Citation

Arogyaswamy, Bernard A., Technology Can Help in Getting to Net Zero Emissions… but Energy Lock Ins and Social Challenges Loom (October 16, 2022). USAEE Working Paper No. 569, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Bernard A. Arogyaswamy (Contact Author)

Le Moyne College

Syracuse, NY 13214
United States
315-445-4100 (Phone)
315-445-4540 (Fax)

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