A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that the global supply of electricity may be at risk if swift measures are not taken by policymakers to extend global electrical grids.
For over a century, current grids have served as the fundamental infrastructure of electricity systems. They supply power to residences, factories, businesses, and healthcare facilities. Therefore, their importance is expected to grow even further as electricity plays an increasingly pivotal role in energy systems.
Clean energy expansion
The IEA report stated that global grids are struggling to keep up with the rapid expansion of clean energy technologies. These technologies include solar power, wind energy, electric vehicles, and heat pumps.
The objective of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius may become unattainable if no change happens. Additionally, energy security will be compromised unless there is an increased focus on policy and investment to address deficiencies in the standard of grid infrastructure.
The agency performed a country-specific analysis of climate and energy objectives. It determined that reaching those objectives will necessitate the addition or replacement of 80 million km of power lines by 2040. This quantity is equivalent to the entire current global grid.
Therefore, significant changes in the operation and regulatory framework of grids are imperative. Additionally, annual investments in grid infrastructure, which have remained unchanged, must increase twofold to $600 billion per year by 2030.
Challenges facing renewable energy developers
The report’s findings state that challenges are already evident.
Renewable energy projects are awaiting approval for grid connection. Such projects holding approximately 1,500 GW worth of power are in advanced stages of development. Therefore, this figure is five times greater than the combined solar photovoltaic and wind capacity added globally in the previous year.
“The recent clean energy progress we have seen in many countries is unprecedented and cause for optimism. But, it could be put in jeopardy if governments and businesses do not come together to ensure the world’s electricity grids are ready for the new global energy economy that is rapidly emerging,” stated Fatih Birol, executive director, of IEA.
“This report shows what’s at stake and needs to be done. We must invest in grids today or face gridlock tomorrow,” he added.
In his view, the significance of electricity will continually grow, placing greater strain on electrical grids. Thus, the integration of technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps is extending the reach of electricity into new domains. Fossil fuels traditionally dominated those domains.
Strategic action needed
It is crucial to take measures like the expansion and reinforcement of grid connections at national and international levels. Thus, this fosters greater resilience and facilitates the seamless integration of increasing proportions of solar and wind energy.
Additionally, the report suggests that governments should support large-scale transmission projects. This will increase capacity to meet growing demand for renewable energy. Moreover, it encourages grid developers and operators to embrace digitalization, enabling future grids to be more adaptable and robust.
On the other hand, leading economies can contribute by mobilizing funding, granting access to technology, and sharing effective policy strategies. Ultimately, this enhances the quality of life, promotes sustainable development, and mitigates the risks associated with climate change.
For more stories on sustainability, click here.