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Global transformation of the electricity sector requires greater efforts to ensure security of supply

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The electricity sector, which plays a large and growing role in energy systems around the world, is undergoing its most dramatic transformation since its creation more than a century ago. The importance of electricity is only set to increase in the years ahead, calling for a more comprehensive approach to electricity security to meet evolving challenges such as cyber threats, extreme weather events and rapidly growing shares of variable electricity generation from wind and solar power, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

The report, Power Systems in Transition, is the first major global study to examine in depth these three key areas for the future of electricity security at the same time and offer recommendations for addressing them in a way that supports the acceleration of clean energy transitions globally.

“Energy security is at the heart of the IEA’s mission because it is critical for social wellbeing, economic prosperity and successful clean energy transitions. We are dedicated to helping countries around the world ensure that all their citizens have access to clean, reliable and affordable energy,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Electricity is essential for the functioning of modern societies – as the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted – and for bringing down global emissions. This is why we are continuing to expand and deepen our work on electricity security.”

The report is being launched today at the 2nd Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables, which is co-hosted by the IEA and the Singapore government. The event will bring together Ministers, industry CEOs and thought leaders from around the world for discussions on the theme of “Investment, Integration and Resilience: A Secure, Clean Energy Future.”

Electricity accounts for one-fifth of global energy consumption today, and its share is rising. It is set to play a bigger role in heating, cooling and transport as well as many digitally integrated sectors such as communication, finance and healthcare. In pathways towards meeting international energy and climate goals, such as the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario, the trend will accelerate. In that scenario, electricity could surpass oil as the world’s largest energy source by 2040. Wind and solar’s share of global electricity generation would rise from 7% to 45%, with all renewables combined generating more than 70% of the total.

Many countries today enjoy a high level of electricity security thanks to centrally controlled systems, relatively simple supply chains, and power plants that can supply electricity whenever needed. But recent technology and policy developments are now radically changing the sector and with it, the electricity security model that has prevailed for the past century. These developments include steep declines in the costs of variable renewables, the trends of decentralisation and digitalisation, and the impacts of climate change.

The challenge for governments and utilities is to update policies, regulations and market designs to ensure that power systems remain secure throughout clean energy transitions. The new IEA report maps out key steps for achieving this. An essential goal is to make systems more flexible so they can smoothly accommodate the variable electricity production from wind and solar. This includes making the best use of the flexibility on offer from existing power plants that can generate electricity when required, as well as increasing investments in grids and other sources of flexibility such as demand-side technologies and storage resources. However, global investment in these areas is declining, a trend that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. An increase in investments should be facilitated by better-designed markets that reward power system resources that deliver flexibility and capacity.

The growing digitalisation of electricity systems, the rise of smart grids and the shift to a wider distribution of generation resources offers many opportunities and benefits. But with cyber threats already substantial and growing, it is imperative to strengthen cyber resilience measures and make them a central part of the planning and operation of power systems. Governments can achieve this through a wide range of policy and regulatory approaches – from highly prescriptive ones to framework-oriented, performance-based ones.

The effects of climate change mean that electricity systems need to become more resilient to the impacts of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. This can be accomplished by giving a high priority to climate resilience in electricity security policies and establishing better standards to guide the necessary investments. Enhancing the resilience of electricity systems to climate change also brings multiple benefits.

The new IEA report identifies best practices and lessons learned from around the globe. It also provides a set of recommendations for institutional frameworks that establish clear responsibilities, incentives and rules; measures to identify, manage and mitigate risks; and protocols to monitor progress, respond and recover, including through emergency response exercises.

“The IEA is the world’s energy authority where governments and industry leaders can share experiences and expertise to help move the world towards a more secure and sustainable energy future,” said Dr Birol. “This report is the reference manual for policy-making on electricity security now and for years to come.”

The IEA’s expanding work on energy security challenges will next year include a special report providing a forward-looking assessment of the global supply of critical minerals for clean energy technologies.

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World Bank Supports Angolan’s Electrification with $250 Million

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The World Bank approved $250 million to improve the operational performance of the electricity sector utilities and increase electricity access in selected cities of Angola.

The  Electricity Sector Improvement and Access Project will finance electrification investments in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela, Huila, and Huambo, delivering 196,500 new electricity connections that will benefit close to one million people and 93,857 public lights.

The project will focus on electricity access expansion and improvement of revenue collection, electricity service improvement, capacity improvement of the public electricity producer (PRODEL, Empresa Pública de Produção de Electricidade), and strengthening sustainable management of generation plants. The project also aims to increase the commercial performance of the national electricity distribution company (Empresa Nacional de Distribuição de Electricidade, ENDE) as well as provide financing to the national transport network Rede Nacional de Transporte, RNT) for targeted interventions to improve and optimize the dispatch of electricity supply and the overall management of the national transmission network. Furthermore, the Project will also finance immediate measures to raise the operational, commercial and technical capacity  of  the three national power utilities, leading to significant electricity service improvement.

“Investment in infrastructure, especially in energy, is key to  economic development ”, said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director to Angola “Quality access to electricity services will have a spillover effect in many other sectors, including agribusiness, health, education, just to name a few.”

Angola’s power generation capacity, largely based on hydropower, has developed at a fast pace with the national installed generation capacity quadrupling in just one decade, but transport, distribution and cost recovery remain very challenging. Less than 40 percent of Angolans have access to electricity, with inadequate electricity services impacting poverty, productivity and regional disparities. Therefore, the project aims to deliver the most critical actions needed to help expand electricity access, improve the operational and commercial performance of utilities, and ultimately boost their creditworthiness. This, in turn, will contribute to reducing extreme poverty, improving the resilience of communities to impacts arising from COVID-19, and increasing shared prosperity.

The total project cost is $417 million, financed with a $250 million loan from the World Bank and a credit of $167 million from Agence Française de Développement.

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IEA and SICA to collaborate on clean energy transitions in Central America

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote clean energy transitions in Central America. Under the MoU, the two organisations will expand their cooperation on energy data and statistics, energy efficiency and climate resilience of electricity systems. These have all been identified as key areas for energy transitions and climate change mitigation in the region under SICA’s Central American 2030 Sustainable Energy Strategy.

“The IEA is pleased to team up with SICA to expand our work in Central America, a dynamic region that is home to over 55 million people and has excellent clean energy potential with distinctive transition opportunities and challenges,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director David Turk. 

Under its Clean Energy Transitions Programme, the IEA has been expanding its collaboration in Latin America. This is taking place both bilaterally with key partner countries – including the two largest economies, Brazil and Mexico – and on a regional level through cooperation with leading regional organisations, including the Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE) and the Inter-American Development Bank. The signing of the IEA-SICA Memorandum of Understanding is a new milestone for the IEA’s engagement with the region. 

“Today’s signing ceremony marks an important step for SICA’s work on clean energy transitions – an important priority for our member countries, which can now benefit from the IEA’s leading analysis and expertise,” said Vinicio Cerezo, SICA Secretary General.

The Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana, or SICA) is an economic and political organisation composed of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá and the Dominican Republic, that works to foster closer ties and integration across Central America and the Dominican Republic to promote peace, liberty, democracy and development in the region.

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IEA publishing early release of its energy statistics, balances and CO2 emissions data

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Accurate, comparable and timely energy data and statistics are fundamental to developing effective and efficient national energy policies, as well as a key element in longer-term planning for investment in the energy sector. This has become increasingly important in the face of the necessity to transform our energy systems to meet the challenges of sustainability, security and inclusion.

To this end, the IEA Energy Data Centre provides the world’s most authoritative and comprehensive source of global energy data, and as part of its multi-year data modernisation strategy in February 2020 the IEA started publishing an early release of its complete supply and demand energy statistics, energy balances and CO2 emissions data. This release proved to be of great value to policymakers in IEA member countries, as well as non-member countries.

As such, in 2021 we have gone one step further, expanding our coverage in the early release to cover more than 60% of global total energy supply and over 63% of global CO2 emissions related to fuel combustion. In addition to significant member countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, the data covers important emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Please visit the IEA Data and Statistics webpage to learn more about the early release and IEA data products more generally. And, note that as in previous years, there will be a further release in April that will include all annual fuels with full OECD coverage; as well as a release in July with global coverage, as well as supply information up to 2020.

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