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Winning the Electrification Race

Summary:
If governments adopt bold policies to help accelerate the production of clean electricity, the world could build a zero-carbon economy fast enough to limit climate change to a manageable degree. But without such measures, a zero-carbon economy will come much too late. LONDON – There is no doubt that by the year 2100, the world will enjoy abundant cheap zero-carbon energy. Coal will be confined to museums, and oil and gas use will be dramatically reduced. Technological progress makes that inevitable, even if unassisted by government policy. But to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change, a zero-carbon global economy must be achieved by mid-century. That, too, is possible, but only with strategic vision and strong policy

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If governments adopt bold policies to help accelerate the production of clean electricity, the world could build a zero-carbon economy fast enough to limit climate change to a manageable degree. But without such measures, a zero-carbon economy will come much too late.

LONDON – There is no doubt that by the year 2100, the world will enjoy abundant cheap zero-carbon energy. Coal will be confined to museums, and oil and gas use will be dramatically reduced. Technological progress makes that inevitable, even if unassisted by government policy. But to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change, a zero-carbon global economy must be achieved by mid-century. That, too, is possible, but only with strategic vision and strong policy support.

Electricity will dominate the future global energy system. Currently, it accounts for only 20% of final energy demand, with direct fossil-fuel use still dominant in transport, heating, and heavy industry. But most economic activities can be powered by electricity, and many will be far more efficient once electrified.

For example, internal-combustion engines typically turn 60-80% of all the energy they use into wasted heat, and only 20-40% into kinetic energy to drive the vehicle. Electric engines, by contrast, are over 90% efficient. Moreover, they are so much simpler to...

Adair Turner
Jonathan Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell is a British businessman, academic and was Chairman of the Financial Services Authority until its abolition in March 2013. He is the former Chairman of the Pensions Commission and the Committee on Climate Change, as well as the former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. He has described himself in a BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackur as a 'technocrat'.

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