Smart Electrification with Renewables: Driving the Transformation of Energy Services

The world has made the transition from one dominant form of energy to another several times. The replacement of fossil fuels with renewables marks the next historic shift. Yet, to ensure sustainability and global climate stability, this latest energy transformation needs to happen much faster.

Countries around the world need a vast expansion of renewables, smarter and more flexible electricity grids, and huge increases in the numbers of vehicles and other products and processes that run on electricity. Those three elements – combined in a “Smart Electrification” strategy – will be crucial in shaping the world’s new, renewable-dominated energy system.

This publication provides policy makers with a conceptual overview of the global transition to electrification with renewables. Crucially, this work was undertaken jointly by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC). As such, it benefits from the perspective of the world’s largest grid operator, and one that is strongly focused on the challenges and opportunities of rapid electrification, digitalisation and renewables deployment.

Combining the perspective of a major grid operator with IRENA’s global work to foster innovation and technology co-operation, the publication examines recent trends in relevant technologies and innovations, sets out possible long-term pathways for electrification with renewables, and identifies priority actions to enable those pathways. Throughout the publication, the underlying concern is how to achieve “smart electrification with renewables”, rather than poorly planned electrification. Smart electrification with renewables focuses on the potential synergies between major increases in renewable power generation, electrification and digitalisation, and looks to create the conditions for the unprecedented co-ordination of their deployment and more efficient use across end-use sectors – power, transport, industry and buildings.

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