Recent energy transitions point way to an ‘Electric Decade’ ahead

To mark the start of Eurelectric’s Power Summit this week, Wytse Kaastra, Managing Director at Accenture – Utilities – Energy Transition Europe, talks about some of the most salient developments within power and utilities over the past 25 years.

Says Kaastra, without a doubt, the most significant development in the utilities sector in the past 25 years is the shift to green energy. Consider the data: Renewable energy represented 38% of total electricity output in the EU in 2020 – more than fossil fuels at 37% – with nuclear providing the remaining 25%. Wind and solar increased by a remarkable 10% from 2019 to 2020.

Wytse Kaastra, Managing Director at Accenture – Utilities – Energy Transition Europe

Bearing in mind that this came from more or less a standing start, with renewables representing less than 1% of the total in 1996, we have come a long way indeed.

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Unlike earlier energy transitions, however, this shift is different; it is largely demand-driven, with demand for sustainable power and solutions growing, due to pressure from consumers, policymakers, investors, and employees, all driving utilities to develop reliable, affordable supplies of low-carbon electricity.

This is a huge accomplishment, but energy companies cannot stand still. There’s a need to address what must happen in the next 25 years, namely the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. What we hope to see is end-use electrification, involving the accelerated electrification of everything from trucks to cities, driving down emissions and putting electricity providers at the center of new and emerging industries.

This will take place in two stages. The first is likely to be a significant acceleration of the energy transition in this decade as companies seek to meet EU 2030 targets for cutting emissions by half. These include a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, a 40% improvement in energy efficiency and 85% of electricity coming from carbon neutral sources.

Eurelectric’s Power Summit (25-28 May 2021)
The Power Summit will host 12 public sessions on the most pressing issues facing the European power sector. From gaps in investment to jumps in innovation, persistent challenges to new opportunities, the Power Summit will explore the energy transition from every angle.
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The second stage will be the implementation of direct electrification, re-inventing everything from heating to mobility. End-use electrification relies upon a portfolio of technologies, some developed, some still emerging. Hydrogen, in particular, offers new pathways for the indirect electrification of hard-to-decarbonize sectors of the economy.

The next decade will be the “Electric Decade”. For the first time, consumers are aligning with the industries and governments that serve them. Yet, to realize emission reductions through end-use electrification, huge investments are required, as well as technology and human ingenuity. It is an extraordinary challenge, but one that can and must be met.