Electrification is at the core of a sustainable energy system

In the context of the transition to a more sustainable energy system, the term “electrification” usually means one of the following: a) to supply with electric power, e.g. a region or community; b) to replace an earlier power source (e.g. gasoline) with electric power; or c) to equip for use with electric power, e.g. a vehicle or other machine. For the system to be sustainable, the electric power must also be generated sustainably. In Sweden, the political goal is to produce all future electricity from renewable sources, mainly from hydro, wind, solar and bioenergy.

According to the European Commission’s 2050 Climate Strategy [1]: “The most important single driver for a decarbonized energy system is the growing role of electricity both in final energy demand and in the supply of alternative fuels, which will be mostly met by renewables, and in particular by wind and solar electricity”.

This means that in the next decades we will see a substantial increase in renewable electricity production and supply, a steep rise in the replacement of combustion engines with electric drives, and a deep transformation of many Greenhouse gas-emitting industrial processes.

The electrification that is envisioned by the European Commission and the Swedish Government is profound and will affect all areas of society. The transition will not only need more and better ways of harvesting electricity from renewable sources, more and better electric vehicles, and cleaner and more efficient industrial processes. Other requirements include, (a) a variety of solutions to store the renewable electricity for power and transport, (b) national and European infrastructures for powering vehicles, fully integrated with the power grid, (c) an expansion and modernization of the electricity grid that addresses power and capacity issues, (d) new laws and regulations, (e) increased energy security, (f) the development of a fully integrated and stable electricity market, (g) new environmental laws to protect biological life and diversity, land, water, and air, (h) public acceptance and support, and (i) political resolve. Furthermore, all of this must be achieved at a reasonable cost for societies and individuals, both in money and in structural and lifestyle changes.

The Swedish Minister for Business, Industry, and Innovation recently warned of risks in an energy transition where haste precedes knowledge [2]. Against the backdrop of climate change, resource limitations and environmental loads, it is imperative to act quickly and decisively. However, it is vital that decisions be based on scientific facts, not on loose assumptions, good intentions, or ideology. The electrification of society will be a major contributor to a sustainable energy system, and a successful transition depends on the development of further new solutions based on high‑quality research. Sweden has the resources and the knowledge to lead this transition by relying on excellent energy research environments like StandUp for Energy.

 

[1] European Commission (2018): A Clean Planet for all
[2] Second Opinion (2019): Baylan tror på total elektrifiering