Research Briefing | Jul 18, 2023

‘Watt if’ – modelling pathways for the electricity sector

As the largest emitter of CO₂ emissions globally, the electricity sector will play a central role in the energy transition. Radical changes will be needed in the way electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed, and consumed as energy supply shifts away from fossil fuels to renewables to meet climate pledges and limit human-induced global warming.

What you will learn:

  • Whether the electricity sector will undertake the necessary shifts in the timeframes required is far from clear as it depends on a highly complex interplay of factors. These include government policy, technological progress, energy security, manufacturing capacity in key markets, electricity market design and regulation, fossil fuel prices, and borrowing costs.
  • To understand the potential consequences of the transition, our new Industry Climate Service models a range of alternative climate pathways and assesses their economic implications at the sector level. Scenario analysis is especially useful for the electricity sector because the magnitude of the shifts and the huge investment required to achieve de-carbonisation targets creates a high degree of uncertainty.
  • On the supply side, the need to de-carbonise electricity generation will require a shift from coal and gas-fired generation to predominantly renewables. But electricity balancing is extremely challenging when the grid relies on inflexible sources like wind and solar, so significant investment in energy storage and interconnectors will be needed to make grids more flexible.
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