The key challenge of our time

The key challenge of our time


Climate change is the most critical challenge of our time. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they’ve been for 800,000 years and are on the rise. The relationship between cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the rise in average global surface temperature is almost linear and the consequence has been unprecedented global warming: the last three years were the hottest ever recorded.

Climate change is already having a significant impact on our planet in the form of violent storms, drought, wildfires, flooding, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

The solution to the problem of climate change clearly involves decarbonisation. A transition toward the mass use of renewable energy sources is underway, but further progress is needed if we want to have a positive effect on climate change while at the same time ensuring coverage for an ever-increasing energy demand.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), to contain impacts on the climate effectively, the energy transition will have to involve a reduction of roughly 45% in current CO2 emissions by 2040. Renewable energy currently covers about 25% of the world’s electricity supply, and is expected to double this contribution by 2040. Renewable sources, therefore, are taking on a more dominant role in the energy mix. The efficient integration of these sources is key to a smooth transition for the energy sector.

In the last five years, renewable sources have accounted for more than half of the world’s installed capacity.

Due to accelerated investments, the cost of these technologies has been substantially lowered. In many areas of the world, it is now cheaper to build a new renewable plant than to continue using a plant run on fossil fuels. Another impetus for sector development is the increase in demand from medium-large industrial operators: purchasing renewable energy is a business decision as well as being based on respect for socio-environmental values and sustainability. The trends are encouraging, but we have to move even faster if we want to achieve the goals we’ve set. We must keep investing in innovation, so that renewable production becomes the best response to growing energy demand and a reliable solution to replace high-emission technologies.

The intervention programme for the provision of electrical energy needs to be updated to incorporate the identification of appropriate action plans for sectors that use that energy, like the built environment, industry and transport.

Increased electricity use in areas of consumption that today are not typically electric would allow for a more efficient use of resources. The so-called electrification of consumption, in fact, results in energy savings.

In particular, the electrification of transport and temperature control will enable greater diffusion of renewables as we explore the relationships between production and demand, for example, between solar production and the demand curve created by air conditioning use.