The transition towards a low-carbon economy with reduced environmental impact is necessarily based on technological advances. Nevertheless, there is neither a miraculous solution nor are there just a few alternatives to choose from. On the contrary, there are several available options.
For instance, a recent report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission identified twenty different solutions, confirming the need, already pointed out by the energy companies that show great consideration for the environment, like Enel, to focus on diversifying sources and technologies.
The first solution is given by renewable sources. The report drawn up by the JRC (2011 Technology Map of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan) includes wind, different solar technologies (especially thermodynamics and photovoltaics), traditional sources (hydro and geothermal) and a number of technologies that are still in an initial phase of development, like wave and tidal energy. The biomass sector is divided into two branches: biofuels for transportation and biofuels for heat and electricity generation.
Moreover, fossil fuels are also included in a clean energy mix, thanks to highly efficient coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
Nuclear energy, in countries that decide to use it, allows to generate a great amount of electricity with extremely low emissions. The research is very promising and also regards nuclear fusion.
Fuel cells is one of the technologies mentioned by the JRC as useful for transportation and electricity generation, as well as electricity storage, with next-generation batteries.
Finally, one of the most significant strategies consists in improving energy efficiency, both in the electricity sector, with the development of smart grids, and in the residential and industrial field, with increased efficiency of buildings, plants and processes.