The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the world must add or replace 80 million kilometres of grid by 2040 to meet climate targets.
The ‘Electricity Grids and Secure Energy Transitions’ report, which should act as a stark reminder of the increasing need to boost investment within the grid infrastructure space, detailed that efforts to tackle climate change could be in jeopardy unless policymakers and companies act decisively to tackle action to improve and expand electricity grids.
As detailed above, IEA stated that achieving all national climate and energy goals will require adding or replacing 80 million kilometres of power lines by 2040. It is important to note that this length is equal that of the entire existing global grid and thus indicates the challenge the globe has in attaining climate goals.
Alongside this, investment in this space must be doubled globally to more than US$600 billion (£495 billion) a year by 2030.
The report highlighted the sheer number of potential projects attempting to connect to the energy grid as a means to boost renewable energy in the mix and increase energy security. According to the IEA, 1,500GW worth of projects are in advanced stages of development waiting to connect to the grid. This is five times the amount of solar PV and wind capacity that was added worldwide last year, IEA said.
“The recent clean energy progress we have seen in many countries is unprecedented and cause for optimism, but it could be put in jeopardy if governments and businesses do not come together to ensure the world’s electricity grids are ready for the new global energy economy that is rapidly emerging,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
“This report shows what’s at stake and needs to be done. We must invest in grids today or face gridlock tomorrow.”
UK must heed IEA warnings over grid infrastructure
In the UK, the issues surrounding grid infrastructure and grid connection congestion have been well covered on Current±, particularly via our Current± Explores: The Grid Connection Conundrum mini-series.
But the UK can be praised for its efforts in attempting to solve the issue. A key factor to point out is the Nick Winsor report, in which the electricity networks commissioner outlined how GB can halve the time required to build grid infrastructure. This is something that could be critical particularly with IEA’s recent warnings.
This more recently had been supported by the UK government in 2023’s edition of Solar & Storage Live, which took place this week. Graham Stuart, minister of state for energy security and net zero, opened the event and said: “We are determined and focused on delivering the infrastructure to help the solar industry to succeed.”
It is also worth noting that National Grid ESO published a five-point plan to speed up grid connections in June 2023, which it said could help projects connect to the grid between two and ten years faster.
EDF Renewables also weighed in on the IEA report, agreeing that the UK must head the warnings inside.
Matthew Boulton, director of solar, storage and private wire of EDF Renewables said: The rapid growth of renewables is key to unlocking a secure and affordable energy transition. However, where we have seen investment in renewables nearly double since 2014, for grids, it has barely changed.
“The IEA report is a wake-up call that the progress made to date in renewables deployment could be put in jeopardy without decisive, immediate action to modernise our grids.
“The report rightly calls for bigger, stronger and smarter grids. The rapid uptake of batteries in the UK is helping to make the grid smarter, but it needs to be bigger and stronger to support the UK’s journey to net zero. We need a strategic view of how to best channel this investment, and how to expand the skills base that will be required to deliver these big infrastructure projects.”