The great shift to electrification – panacea or headache?

Electricity is today at the heart of modern societies and economies, providing a rising share of energy services. The global shift towards an intensifying electrification of functions and lifestyles has gathered considerable momentum in past years. It is considered today to be a megatrend of the new century, one that accelerates the green energy transition, but also involves certain risks.

The share of heating and cooling in global final energy consumption is still higher than the use of electricity. And the carbon intensity of traditional fuels makes the heating industry switch to green gases. A special challenge resides in the building sector with its long investment cycles and relative inertia to rapid change. Also, strategies for the green energy transition and decarbonisation of global societies need to avoid single-edged dependencies on specific energy carriers and rather foster diversification and system redundancy, be it at local, national, continental or intercontinental levels.

This session explores the limits of mass electrification in selected sectors. Can electricity fully replace today’s transport as well as heating and cooling technologies, which are still mostly based on fossil fuels? And what about differentiated strategies for industrialised and developing countries?