We still need to halt the increase of global carbon emissions before 2020 and in the long term reduce emissions by at least 50% up to 2050. Ultimately, we will have to reduce carbon emissions to close to zero or even remove carbon completely from the atmosphere.
However, climate change is not the only energy challenge:
•We need energy services to drive global economic development
•We need to provide equal access to modern energy worldwide
•We need to provide electricity to the 25% of the world's population still without electricity
•We need to provide modern energy to the 50% of the world's population still relying on energy from wood and other solid fuels
•Security of supply is vital as even the slightest disruptions of the energy supply have major social and economic impacts
•We need to solve the health problems related to energy production. This applies to both climate-related diseases and diseases caused by pollution from energy production
•An increasing proportion of the world's population will be living in urban areas. This growing urbanization creates megacities that both contribute to climate change and feel the effects of climate change. We need to provide smart energy for the smart cities of tomorrow
All of the above-mentioned challenges must be addressed simultaneously in the transition to a globally sustainable energy system. If you only look at the technological potential, we generally have the technologies necessary to create a sustainable global energy system by 2050.
We need to identify the most suitable energy solutions for each country and region, and we do not all have to share the same technologies.
In all areas but technology, creating a globally sustainable energy system poses a huge challenge for the world community.
The road to a sustainable energy system involves many aspects:
•Energy efficiency is still the key factor. Efficient energy utilization and energy savings will contribute half of the total carbon reductions
•Wind is one of the keys for reducing the use of fossil fuels
•The great potential in other renewable energy sources such as the sun and geothermics should be utilized to the full extent
•Increased use of biomass poses a bigger problem due to security of supply of foods as well as ecological issues
•Electrification of the transport sector is a key factor
Energy systems must be radically reshaped:
•We need intelligent energy systems that can adapt to flexible energy demands, and customers must be able to plan their energy consumption based on falling and increasing energy prices. This applies to both the individual household and large-scale customers.
•The supply grids for electricity, district heating and natural gas must be made intelligent to adapt to the fluctuating energy production from renewable energy sources
•We need electrical highways – supergrids – that can connect regions and continents
•We need facilities for short and long-term energy storage to compensate for fluctuating energy production for different time scales from day to day, week to week and season to season
Investments, economy and financing
New renewable energy sources such as wind and sun have shown remarkable growth rates in the past ten years, but the rapid proliferation of renewable energy sources generates new challenges, for example that existing power plants will have to be replaced before time.
Danish energy companies are ambitious in the transition process. Dong Energy pursues a strategy for transition to 85% renewable energy and 15% fossil energy by 2040.
The timeframes for investments in energy technologies and energy systems are very long and long-term public sector planning is a precondition for private financing of new energy plants.
The total global investments in the energy systems of tomorrow must be increased significantly if the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to just 2 degrees Celsius is to be achieved.