The Need for a Holistic Approach to Net-Zero Energy Transition

Written by Soheil Mohseni and Sven Teske

This article explores the imperative of an integrated and collaborative approach to achieving net-zero energy transition and combatting climate change. It highlights the interconnectedness of various sectors and technologies, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies that go beyond isolated solutions.


In the global quest to combat climate change and achieve a net-zero emissions future, it is essential to recognize that the transition to clean energy involves two distinct aspects: energy demand and energy supply. On the demand side, understanding the drivers for energy consumption, such as GDP, heavy industries, agriculture, chemical industries, water usage, energy and CO2 intensities, fisheries, transportation, aviation, and building stock, is crucial. Meanwhile, on the supply side, the transition extends beyond solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy. Diversifying the energy supply is imperative to meet the challenges of achieving net-zero emissions. It therefore necessitates an integrated approach that encompasses diverse industries and technologies, such as new fuel sources, heat supply solutions, more effective utilities, and more [1]. Achieving a net-zero energy transition is akin to unravelling a complex tapestry, where understanding the interconnectedness of these components and utilizing innovative solutions can pave the way for a sustainable future.


The Interconnected Pathway to a Sustainable Future

The foundation of any discussion on net-zero energy transition lies in the recognition of the significant contributions and challenges posed by heavy industries such as cement, steel, and aluminium [2]. These sectors have traditionally been associated with high energy requirements and substantial CO2 emissions. To achieve net-zero emissions, innovation and collaboration are key. To this end, the integration of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for traditional fossil fuel-based feedstocks in heavy industries can play a transformative role. By embracing hydrogen, produced from renewable sources through electrolysis, heavy industries can transition towards a net-zero emissions future while maintaining their vital roles in global infrastructure and development [3].

Agriculture, being another sector with considerable greenhouse gas emissions, also plays a vital role in the net-zero energy transition. Addressing emissions from livestock production and deforestation is essential. By adopting sustainable agriculture techniques, reducing methane emissions, and promoting responsible land use, we can transform the sector into a carbon sink, contributing to the overall net-zero goal [4].
Additionally, the chemical industry, which spans across multiple sectors, significantly impacts emissions. To achieve net-zero, it is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness between ‘non-energy demand’ such as plastic products, and its impact on feedstock availability, energy demand, and supply. Transitioning towards cleaner production methods, embracing renewable feedstocks, and developing sustainable alternatives become even more essential in this context. Collaboration among stakeholders can foster the development and deployment of innovative technologies in this sector. Shifting gears in the chemical industry by reducing reliance on conventional fossil fuel-based feedstocks and implementing cutting-edge technologies could offer a promising avenue to replace environmentally harmful processes [5].

Transportation, spanning various sectors such as road, rail, air, and maritime, is another critical component of net-zero energy transition. It requires a multi-faceted approach, including electrification of vehicles, sustainable aviation and maritime fuels, improved public transportation systems, and investments in alternative transportation infrastructure.

Importantly, addressing emissions from the aviation sector is crucial in achieving net-zero goals. Advanced sustainable aviation fuels, also known as e-fuels and biofuels, have emerged as promising alternatives. These fuels, derived from renewable sources such as biomass and synthetic processes, can significantly reduce CO2 emissions compared to conventional jet fuels. By promoting the development and adoption of e-fuels and biofuels in aviation, we can mitigate the environmental impact of air travel and contribute to propelling the net-zero energy transition forward [6].

Furthermore, per-capita consumption patterns and economic growth are intricately linked to energy demand and emissions. Achieving net-zero requires a comprehensive approach that considers sustainable economic models, responsible resource management, and measures to ensure equitable access to clean energy. By addressing per-capita consumption patterns, promoting sustainable economic growth, and implementing energy efficiency measures, we can navigate the challenges of balancing development with environmental considerations [7].  Moreover, efficient water usage and reduced energy intensity are intertwined aspects of the net-zero energy transition. By focusing on reducing water consumption and improving energy efficiency across industries, we can make significant strides toward sustainability. The adoption of advanced water treatment systems, energy-efficient processes, and responsible resource management can drive progress toward sustainability goals. Additionally, incorporating hydrogen technologies in water treatment and energy-intensive industries hold promise for enhancing efficiency and reducing environmental impact [8].

Along the same line, technological advancements, including more efficient internal combustion engines, will play a pivotal role in achieving net-zero emissions. Minimising the CO2 intensity of technologies, from manufacturing processes to energy production and transportation, is crucial. Research and development efforts focused on low-carbon alternatives, disruptive technologies, and robust carbon pricing mechanisms can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future [9].  Also, the building stock, comprising residential, commercial, and public infrastructure, represents a significant opportunity for achieving net-zero energy transition. Enhancing energy efficiency in existing buildings, implementing green building standards, and utilising renewable energy sources for heating and cooling are key strategies. Integrated design principles and smart grid solutions can optimise energy usage and contribute to decarbonising the building stock [10].

Sustainable forestry practices and the use of wood products hold potential for carbon sequestration and reducing reliance on emissions-intensive materials. Sustainable forest management, reforestation initiatives, and the promotion of responsibly sourced wood contribute to the net-zero energy transition [11].

Utilities, encompassing energy generation, distribution, and infrastructure, must also undergo significant transformations to support the net-zero energy transition. Investment in renewable energy sources, grid modernisation, and decentralised energy systems are critical steps in achieving a clean, resilient, and decentralised energy landscape [12].


Integrated and Collaborative Solutions

The net-zero energy transition necessitates an integrated and holistic approach that recognizes the intricate web of dependencies and interactions between different sectors and technologies. Climate change is a multifaceted problem, and addressing it requires a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond isolated solutions. By adopting an integrated approach, stakeholders can identify synergies and trade-offs between sectors, making it possible to devise coordinated strategies that maximize positive impacts while minimizing unintended consequences.

A holistic approach also emphasizes collaboration among various stakeholders, including governments, industries, researchers, and communities. Solving the global climate crisis demands collective efforts and a willingness to share knowledge and resources. Collaborative initiatives allow for the exchange of best practices, shared research and development, and more effective policy implementations. This collaborative spirit can foster innovation and accelerate the adoption of sustainable technologies and practices.



The net-zero energy transition demands more than isolated efforts; it requires an integrated and holistic approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of various sectors and technologies. Embracing a comprehensive strategy that considers the complexities and dependencies among industries, such as cement, steel, agriculture, chemical sectors, transportation, and more, will be vital for achieving meaningful progress toward sustainability.

Through collaboration and innovative solutions, we can navigate the challenges of the net-zero energy transition and pave the way for a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future. Governments, industries, researchers, and communities must unite in their commitment to shared goals, fostering collective efforts to combat climate change. It is through collective efforts, supported by robust policies, technological advancements, and stakeholder collaborations, that we can pave the way for a sustainable and prosperous future.



  1. Teske, S., 2022. Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals: Part 2: Science-based Target Setting for the Finance industry—Net-Zero Sectoral 1.5˚ C Pathways for Real Economy Sectors. Springer Nature.
  2. Bataille, C.G., 2020. Physical and policy pathways to net‐zero emissions industry. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 11(2), p.e633.
  3. Bataille, C., Nilsson, L.J. and Jotzo, F., 2021. Industry in a net-zero emissions world: New mitigation pathways, new supply chains, modelling needs and policy implications. Energy and Climate Change, 2, p.100059.
  4. Bataille, C., Waisman, H., Briand, Y., Svensson, J., Vogt-Schilb, A., Jaramillo, M., Delgado, R., Arguello, R., Clarke, L., Wild, T. and Lallana, F., 2020. Net-zero deep decarbonization pathways in Latin America: Challenges and opportunities. Energy Strategy Reviews, 30, p.100510.
  5. Gabrielli, P., Gazzani, M. and Mazzotti, M., 2020. The role of carbon capture and utilization, carbon capture and storage, and biomass to enable a net-zero-CO2 emissions chemical industry. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 59(15), pp.7033-7045.
  6. Deutch, J., 2020. Is net zero carbon 2050 possible?. Joule, 4(11), pp.2237-2240.
  7. Duffy, C., Prudhomme, R., Duffy, B., Gibbons, J., Iannetta, P.P., O’Donoghue, C., Ryan, M. and Styles, D., 2022. Randomized national land management strategies for net-zero emissions. Nature Sustainability, 5(11), pp.973-980.
  8. Nurdiawati, A. and Urban, F., 2021. Towards deep decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries: A review of current status, technologies and policies. Energies, 14(9), p.2408.
  9. Geels, F.W., Sovacool, B.K., Schwanen, T. and Sorrell, S., 2017. The socio-technical dynamics of low-carbon transitions. Joule, 1(3), pp.463-479.
  10. Mengis, N., Kalhori, A., Simon, S., Harpprecht, C., Baetcke, L., Prats‐Salvado, E., Schmidt‐Hattenberger, C., Stevenson, A., Dold, C., El Zohbi, J. and Borchers, M., 2022. Net‐zero CO2 Germany—A retrospect from the year 2050. Earth's Future, 10(2), p.e2021EF002324.
  11. Raihan, A. and Tuspekova, A., 2023. Towards net zero emissions by 2050: the role of renewable energy, technological innovations, and forests in New Zealand. Journal of Environmental Science and Economics, 2(1), pp.1-16.
  12. Valdivia, A.D. and Balcell, M.P., 2022. Connecting the grids: A review of blockchain governance in distributed energy transitions. Energy Research & Social Science, 84, p.102383.


This article was edited by Bernard Fong.

To view all articles in this issue, please go to July 2023 eNewsletter. For a downloadable copy, please visit the IEEE Smart Cities Resource Center.

s mosheni
Soheil Mohseni is a Senior Research Consultant within the Energy Futures team at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Dr. Mohseni specializes in modelling renewable and sustainable energy systems. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in power engineering from his home country, Iran. In 2018, he decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Sustainable Energy Systems in New Zealand. During his Ph.D. studies and postdoctoral fellowship at Victoria University of Wellington, Dr. Mohseni developed a proprietary microgrid sizing tool and designed five microgrids for grid-connected and off-grid communities in New Zealand, including Stewart Island, Great Barrier Island, and the town of Ohakune. At ISF, he aims to focus further on sustainable energy systems, and to engage with public- and private-sector energy stakeholders to better understand how energy planning optimization can drive the deployment of renewable energy systems in Australia and globally.
Sven Teske is an Associate Professor and Research Director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), University of Technology Sydney (UTS). His research interests include: energy decarbonization pathways for specific industry sectors and regions towards Net-Zero by 2050; 100% renewable energy concepts required to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement for countries, regions, cities, and islands; as well as the development of National Determined Contribution (NDC) reports. This includes technical analysis of power grids regarding integration of solar electricity, onshore and offshore wind power generation, and electricity and heat storage systems. Dr. Teske developed the ‘One-Earth Climate Model’ – a scenario tool used in the financial industry for carbon reduction target setting. He has over 28 years of experience in renewable energy market and policy analysis, as well as solar and on- and offshore wind power grid integration concepts in public grids. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Flensburg in Germany.

Past Issues

To view archived articles, and issues, which deliver rich insight into the forces shaping the future of the smart cities. Older eNewsletter can be found here. To download full issues, visit the publications section of the IEEE Smart Cities Resource Center.