Lack of ambition and focus could make power grids the weak link in the clean energy transition – News

Efforts to combat climate change and ensure reliable electricity supply could be at risk unless policymakers and businesses act quickly to improve and expand the world’s electricity grids, according to an IEA special report released today.

Grids have been the backbone of electrical systems for more than a century, supplying power to homes, factories, offices and hospitals, and their importance will only increase as the role of electricity in power systems increases. However, a new report, Power grids and secure energy transitions, which offers the first global overview of grids of its kind, finds signs that they are keeping pace with the rapid growth of key clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, electric cars and heat pumps. Without greater policy focus and investment, the lack of availability and quality of grid infrastructure could put the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C out of reach and undermine energy security, the report warns.

In order to achieve all national climate and energy targets, by 2040 80 million kilometers of power lines will need to be added or replaced – the equivalent of the entire existing global grid. Based on a detailed report conducted in each country. Major changes in how networks operate and are regulated are also necessary, and annual investment in networks, which has largely remained stagnant, will increase by 2030. must double to more than 600 billion USD per year.

There are already problems. The report points to a large and growing backlog of renewable energy projects waiting to be given the green light to connect to the grid. It indicates 1,500 gigawatts worth of these projects are advanced. That’s five times the amount of solar and wind power that was added worldwide last year.

“The recent clean energy progress we’ve seen in many countries is unprecedented and encouraging, but it could be at risk if governments and businesses don’t come together to ensure the world’s power grids are ready for the new global energy economy.” rapidly emerging”, said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of TEA. “This report shows what is at stake and what needs to be done.” We need to invest in networks today or face deadlock tomorrow.

The role of electricity is expected to continue to grow strongly, increasing grid demands. With the adoption of new technologies such as electric cars and heat pumps, electricity is spreading to areas previously dominated by fossil fuels. Meanwhile, countries are rapidly adding renewable energy projects, requiring more power lines to connect to power systems and well-functioning distribution networks to ensure reliable supply to end users. This includes digitizing distribution networks and providing greater flexibility in demand response and energy storage.

A new scenario created for the report, the Grid Delay Case, examines what would happen if grid investment is not increased quickly enough and grid regulatory reforms are slow. It is established that in 2030-2050 total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be nearly 60 billion tons higher due to slower use of renewable energy sources, leading to more fossil fuel use. This is equivalent to the total CO2 emissions of the global energy sector over the past four years. This will put global temperatures well above the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C, with a 40% chance of exceeding 2°C.

The report identifies several strategic actions that could make an impact. This includes developing and strengthening grid connections within a country, between countries and between regions to make electricity systems more resilient and better able to integrate the increasing share of solar and wind energy. The report recommends that governments support large-scale transmission projects to ensure grids are ready for continued strong growth in renewable energy. It also encourages network developers and operators to embrace digitization to make future networks more resilient and flexible.

There is an urgent need for decisive action on the long-term modernization and expansion of networks. New grid infrastructure often takes 5-15 years to plan, permit and complete, compared to 1-5 years for new renewable energy projects and less than 2 years for new EV charging infrastructure.

Improving and expanding the network infrastructure in countries around the world will require stronger international cooperation. In developing and emerging countries, with the exception of China, investment in the grid has declined in recent years, despite rapid growth in electricity demand and ongoing efforts to meet energy access targets.

“A critical task for the international community is to ensure that the developing world has the resources needed to build and modernize electricity networks,” said Dr. “By mobilizing finance, providing access to technology and sharing best policy practices, leading economies can help improve people’s lives, strengthen sustainable development and reduce the risks of climate change.”

Godfrey Kemp

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