Report: Electrical Grid Problems Risk World Climate Goals

05:07 November 1, 2023

Report: Electrical Grid Problems Risk World Climate Goals

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says many world electrical grids will need major improvements to support international climate change goals.

In a new report, the IEA calls on nations to invest in aging electrical grid systems. The Paris-based organization works with member governments to help them shape energy policies.

The IEA examined electricity grids in countries across the world to produce its report. The report found that, for the most part, electrical grid systems have not kept up with clean energy technologies like solar, wind, electric cars and heat pumps.

One of the main findings is that to meet all national climate and energy goals, about 80 million kilometers of power lines will have to be added or replaced by 2040. The report noted that this amount is equal to the whole existing worldwide electricity grid.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement has set a goal to limit warming worldwide to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. Climate scientists believe the way to meet that goal is to reduce the use of greenhouse gases. They say this kind of pollution – linked largely to human activities – warms the planet.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol spoke to reporters from The Associated Press about the report. He said there are many renewable energy projects waiting to connect to electricity systems. But currently, most grids are not equipped to work with the greener technology.

Birol said many of the renewable projects are ready or nearly ready to go. If grid changes could be completed, the projects could produce about 1,500 gigawatts of power. This is about five times the amount of solar and wind capacity added worldwide last year, Birol said.

If investments in grid systems do not increase, the report predicts the chance of reaching the Paris agreement’s goal drops sharply. The IEA said such investments need to double to more than $600 billion a year by 2030.

But there are difficulties getting new grid improvements approved. The IEA notes that it is not uncommon for a single high-power overhead power line to take five to 13 years to get government approvals in developed economies. Approvals in nations such as China and India, can be much shorter, the organization said.

One project examined in the report aims to carry wind power from northern to southern Germany. First planned in 2014, it was delayed after political opposition to an overhead line meant it was buried instead. Completion of the project is now expected in 2028 instead of 2022.

Other important projects are delayed, including the 400-kilometer Bay of Biscay connector between Spain and France. Officials expect to finish the work in 2028 instead of 2025. And a line to bring wind power from New Mexico to Arizona and California just started last month after years of delays.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

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