New Electricity Frontiers: Harnessing the role of low-carbon electricity uses in a digital era

Summary

Electricity drives development: In emerging countries it boosts productivity and in developed countries it is a vital condition for modernization. Around 1.1 billion people still need access to clean energy, whether from networks when urban and industrial development is sought, or via off-grid systems in remote areas. Recent technological advances have opened the way to smarter power grids, which can empower customers, enhance system reliability and resilience, and reduce long-term costs. Affordability of electricity, guaranteed by adapting technologies and regulations to regional contexts, is the key condition to deep electrification.

Electricity is set to become the world’s leading energy source by 2050. Electricity’s share of the final energy mix is already on an upward trend, going from 9% to 18% between 1970 and today. Now the pace of electrification must double in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets and help protect the world from climate change. Governments can shift gears by promoting the electrification of end-uses in all sectors. It has two major knock-on benefits for the climate: it improves energy efficiency, as electrical technologies have a higher output than fossil fuel equivalents; and it facilitates the decarbonization of power generation, as it provides more scope to manage demand, thus allowing more variable renewables to be brought into the mix.

Clean, efficient electricity is the lifeblood of the modern city. Cities are on the rise: by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, up from already 50% today. Cities consume 1.3 times more energy and 2.5 times more electricity per person than rural areas, making urbanization a major contributor to electrification. In the near future, electricity has the power to transform cities for the better. It will radically reduce local pollution by replacing fossil fuels in transportation and heating, and facilitate a digital revolution that will deliver a huge range of new services to citizens.

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