Sustainable energy for all, the challenge of the century

Of the mega-trends driving the energy transition today, three stand out in terms of relevance and impact:

  • Climate change mitigation. This is one of the most recent mega-trends, but it has rapidly gained importance on the agendas of policy-makers as well as a considerable grip on public opinion. The current energy system is the main cause of climate change: combustion of coal, oil and natural gas to produce energy leads to emission into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases (read more about climate change in the climate change section – link). From here it is easy to understand how the issue of climate change mitigation is closely linked to that of the energy transition towards a system able to supply the energy necessary for production processes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero. There is now a great deal of social and political attention to climate change, and this has led to the renowned agreement between countries at the Paris conference at the end of 2015 (COP15).
  • Access to energy and the fight against energy poverty. Having access to modern forms of energy in sufficient quantities is not only a basic prerequisite for giving everyone an opportunity for economic growth and social development, but is often a matter of survival. Energy poverty still afflicts a large part of the world’s population. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that around 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and that 38% of the world’s population (almost 50% of the population in developing countries) do not have access to clean cooking solutions. Biomasses such as wood and charcoal are used to cook food in stoves that are not suitable for use in closed, unventilated spaces. The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2016 alone some 3.8 million premature deaths were due to this practice.
  • World population growth. The elimination of existing inequalities in the living conditions of populations today requires global growth in both the economy and the availability of energy; growth which – to be fair and sustainable – should be compatible with environmental, climate and social objectives. Yet when additional population requiring the opportunity to achieve a minimum level of quality of life is added to this, the pressure intensifies and the search for a new energy model that meets all needs becomes even more of a challenge.

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