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Monica_55905 Sep 03

THE SMART ENERGY TRANSITION: AN EMERGING NEED

THE SMART ENERGY TRANSITION: AN EMERGING NEED image
Article written by Juan Pablo Silvestri and Gisela Rábida, originally published in the Gerencia Ambiental magazine.
 
Looking ahead to the next few years, an increase in the world population, in global economic activity, as well as in the energy intensity linked to GDP and the CO2 emissions associated with the energy we consume is projected.

There's no doubt about the importance of approaching this complex future scenario; however, migrating to cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy production is not an easy path. Generating and maintaining the sustainable management of energy matters in the long term is a systematic process, and one whose focus should not be lost, it requires to be constantly audited regardless of the political authority involved, maintaining efficiency in each of the stages, avoiding this.

The waste of resources: economic, environmental, and social, preserving an evolutionary character, adaptable to market, technology, and geopolitical fluctuations. Awareness about the future consequences of climate change, as well as the use and conservation of natural resources, highlights the urgency of taking mitigation and adaptation actions to CC, migrating to much cleaner forms of energy, generating the least negative impact possible on the environment and certain economic sectors and segments of society.

For now, fossil fuels dominate the energy matrix, since they are currently considered the most efficient and economical source of energy to supply our needs. This is reflected with a large percentage in heating and transportation processes. It takes a great infrastructure and, most importantly, time to achieve the critical change that is needed.

Nevertheless, improvements in industrial processes and an expansion of the service sector can be observed. Openly, the panorama changes if the increases in energy efficiency are studied - for example, the variation of the energy content of GDP. On average, the primary energy required to produce an additional unit of GDP has decreased annually by 1%.

However, the energy matrix has changed on several occasions and the consumption of renewable energy is beginning to figure within it, although this does not necessarily lead to a decrease in the demand for fossil fuels (still growing).

The Energy Transition (hereinafter TE) can be understood as a long-term structural change in energy systems or energy sources that the world uses for its development. It is considered part of human history. In this sense, we can highlight four critical milestones:
  • The First Industrial Revolution (18th-19th century), use of coal.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution (20th century), use of oil.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution (20th century), use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 (present), developing and using renewable and sustainable energy.
On the other hand, it should be noted that ET is characterized by "3D":
  • Decarbonization of the economy facing the challenge of: the volatility of market prices, as well as changes in business models. Mainly driven by the paris agreement (COP21), other international agreements and later economies of scale in the ER sector.
  • Digitization, applying digital asset and information management to the network and to the business model.
  • Decentralization, involving the main actors of the sector in a migration from a centralized to a distributed energy generation.
Sustainability must guide this entire process, not only in terms of the management of the resources themselves, but also in all their social and ethical-cultural derivations, promoting that the well-being generated is sustainable for all communities. It is a strategy aligned with SDG 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 11, 13 and 17 of the 2030 Agenda.

As already mentioned, it is necessary to work on economies of scale to be able to derive an acceptable reduction in costs in sustainable projects and in this way to be able to ensure projection and continuity in them.

The results are appreciated in the case of solar energy, for example, where the manufacturing plants of solar cells and modules grew enormously (more information in the report of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) - Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019). Together, the implementation of necessary policies at the national level for coordination and access to international financing should be strengthened, due to the need to encourage investment and innovation in the private and public sectors.

Due to the scarcity of resources, it is necessary to carry out ET in an intelligent way, managing the primary and secondary energy sources of each region with the seriousness that is required and not committing to temporary management or simple short-term measures that do not derive intangible and impact results.

Undoubtedly, great schematic changes and major levels of investment are unavoidable, however, the cost to pay is much lower compared to sitting back and not acting.