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Future sustainable energy

Green advisor

Future sustainable energy supply a major global challenge

Global energy use is expected to increase by 50 percent before 2035. Two strong driving forces are a growing population and increased urbanisation. Meanwhile, more than a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. How do we reduce carbon emissions while increasing access to electricity? And what are the options for a sustainable energy supply?

Major global challenges

Big changes have been taking place in the global energy market over the last few years. The production of shale gas and shale oil has increased sharply, particularly in the US, which has led to a fall in oil prices worldwide. For the first time, the forecast is that the world may be facing decreases in energy costs instead of increases.

Even Sweden is facing major challenges. In 15 to 20 years, the oldest of today’s Swedish nuclear power plants will be closed, as will the first-generation wind turbines. Sweden’s future energy supply is often referred to as one of the most important political issues of the coming years.

Smart grid

Today, new digital innovations are challenging old ways of thinking and changing the way we use electricity. One concept that has received considerable attention and that is often identified as one of the solutions to the challenges of the future is smart grids. Smart grids enable consumers to participate in and take control of their own electricity use in a way that was not possible before, for example by providing information on how much electricity is being used at certain times and at what cost. This provides consumers with better knowledge of their electricity use so they can make smarter choices when using it.

Many predict that future power customers will increasingly choose to disconnect from the traditional grid and instead generate their own electricity. For example, electric car manufacturer Tesla made headlines with its new battery for home use that can store power from solar panels so that the energy can be used when the sun is not shining. Tesla hopes that the new battery will help more people become self-sufficient with renewable electricity.

“Thanks to the technological leaps forward we are now seeing, electricity has started becoming a consumer issue. The need for the traditional grid is shrinking, and when people are able to disconnect from the mains, it will radically change the rules of the game in the electricity market,” says Jan Nordling, head project manager for Electricity Crossroads.

Electricity Crossroads examines challenges

Driving forces such as urbanisation and globalisation are causing great uncertainty about electricity generation in the future. Where will electricity be needed most in Sweden in the future? How dependent will Sweden be on electricity from other countries? And who is going to make the investments needed to ensure its production?

The Electricity Crossroads project was created on the basis of these future challenges. It brings together leading representatives of energy companies, engineering consultants, research institutes, industry, and environmental organisations. The aim is to find solutions for Sweden’s future supply of power.

“We need a secure supply of electricity in Sweden that can handle different weather conditions. At the same time we don’t want to increase the amount of fossil dependent electricity. This requires alternative solutions combined with increased flexibility, or expanded exchanges with other countries,” says Jan.

Global transition to renewable energy

The whole world is now making crucial choices about how to solve the electricity supply problems of the future. But despite an acceleration in the global transition to renewable energy in recent years, fossil fuels still represent 80 percent of the world’s energy supply.

One of the fastest growing renewable energy sources is solar energy. Thanks to technological advances, prices have fallen and it is starting to become fully competitive with fossil energy. Installing solar energy in homes is an expensive investment for many. But once the panels are in place, maintenance costs are low and the electricity generated is virtually free in the long run. Because of the low operating costs, solar energy has great potential to increase the standard of living in low-income areas where access to electricity is limited.