Letter: Rush to achieve net zero is not a one-size-fits-all race
Originally published in the Financial Times on 3 December, 2020.
You report on the pledge of Joe Biden, the US president-elect, to decarbonise the US electricity sector by 2035 and the possibility the UK may follow suit (“PM urged to match Biden’s clean energy goals”, Report, November 30). Achieving net zero for electricity markets in developed countries is feasible from a technical point of view, though, as the article notes, companies “have yet to release analysis on the costs of such a rapid decarbonisation”.
Achieving net zero electricity worldwide is a completely different story. The four drivers of the global energy transition — decarbonisation, digitisation, decentralisation and, more recently, demand disruption — are now accompanied by a fifth critical but less visible “D”, diversity. Only 20 per cent of the world runs on electric power. Some 800m people lack any access to electricity and billions more need more reliable and affordable energy for their livelihoods.
The transition is unfolding along regionally diverse technology pathways, but too often is portrayed as a one-size-fits-all oversimplification. The so called “race to zero”, while important, is not the full story. Even in an era of cheaper electricity production, managing the full costs incurred by all elements of society must influence the speed of transition.
Secretary-General and CEO
World Energy Council