Energy is at the root of modern economies and is vital to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the internet of things. The challenge for policymakers is to craft policy frameworks that enable the three critical goals of energy security, environmental sustainability and affordability and access while the energy sector undergoes a fundamental transition.
Maintaining a balance between these three goals creates a “trilemma,” which is getting more complex for countries and energy companies — especially given the uncertain pace of the transition to decentralized, decarbonized and digital systems. Put differently, we are trying to build a bridge while crossing it.
The comparative rankings and profiles of the 125 economies covered in the World Energy Trilemma Index 2018 highlight how the exponential acceleration of interconnected megatrends shaping the global energy sector are rapidly evolving the means to achieve and balance energy trilemma goals.
Evolving energy sources are shifting the definition of and means by which to achieve energy security. In a fossil fuel-driven world, energy security was ensured by the security of energy supply. But technology has led to an increased supply of natural gas and has driven improved performance and reduced costs of renewables. Today’s energy security increasingly implies flexibility of a diversified grid, which is hard to measure and even harder to ensure.
For example, coal-fired electricity generation in OECD countries is in terminal decline. Initially displaced by cleaner natural gas, it has been increasingly losing ground to renewable sources that continue to grow faster than predicted: The share of renewable generation has doubled every 5.5 years. Under these trends, coal-fired power and nuclear no longer will be viable sources of power in OECD countries by 2050. For example, in the United States, the share of electricity generated from coal dropped from 52.8 percent in 1997 to 45 percent in 2009, and then to 30.1 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, the share of natural gas in 2017 stood at 31.7 percent, and the share of renewables was at 17.1 percent.
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