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Global Energy and Climate Outlook 2019: Electrification for the low-carbon transition

Abstract: 

This edition of the Global Energy and Climate Outlook (GECO) analyses the role of electrification in global transition pathways to a low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions economy. Electricity is found to be an increasingly important energy carrier in final energy consumption already in the absence of stronger climate policies than those currently in place (Reference scenario), while enhanced electrification of final energy demand is a crucial element of the 2°C temperature change scenario, paving the way to climate neutrality. The 2°C target could be achieved by simultaneously transforming various elements of the energy system: shifting final energy demand from mainly fossil fuels towards electricity and low-carbon synthetic fuels mainly derived from electricity; decarbonising power generation; increasing energy efficiency in end-uses, which is favoured by further electrification; and mobilising novel options to better accommodate high shares of intermittent renewable electricity sources, such as demand-side load management and power storage. This report further shows that the 2°C target is technically possible at relatively low cost for the overall economy (global GDP reduction below 1% across all sensitivities compared to Reference in 2050). This would also bring along co-benefits for air quality. In order to explore the role that electrification can play as an emissions mitigation option, a number of sensitivity variants on key parameters impacting the energy system – energy prices, cost of technologies, non-economic drivers related to behaviour and policy – are conducted. The role of electricity is examined by large sector (industry, transport, buildings, power generation), with a particular regional focus on the EU and China and a sectoral focus on road transport electrification.