The Worldwide Transition to Sustainable Energy

Author photo: Jim Frazer
By Jim Frazer


Transitioning to a sustainable energy system has become a global industrial requirement. Defined simply, energy is sustainable if it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The transition towards a sustainable energy system has multiple benefits, including decreased carbon footprint, improved public health, local job creation, and improved energy security. According to the IEA, world electricity demand will have increased by 70 percent by 2040, driven mainly by the emerging economies of India, China, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Fossil fuels have been the primary source of energy for many years, but they are a finite resource, and their continued use is causing significant environmental damage. Presently, fossil fuels provide 85 percent of the world's energy, and this causes 76 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The statistics are alarming: about 790 million people in developing countries do not have electricity, and 2.6 billion rely on polluting fuels such as wood or charcoal to cook. These environmental changes have long-term impacts on our planet, including changes in weather patterns, increased natural disasters, and a loss of fragile, critical ecosystems.

The lack of access to energy also limits economic development opportunities, as businesses and industries cannot operate efficiently without reliable access to electric power. The transition to a sustainable energy system requires a system-wide transformation of the way energy is produced, distributed, stored, and consumed.

Understanding Sustainable Energy

The terms “sustainable energy” and “renewable energy” are often used interchangeably because the most popular sources of sustainable energy are also renewable - wind, solar, and hydro power. However, these sources of energy have intermittent generation profiles, which require the development of energy storage and enhanced distribution Sustainable Energysystems to ensure a reliable and continuous supply of electricity.

While the world needs to transition towards renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change and reduce the negative impacts of energy use on the environment, the transition must be accomplished in a way that ensures social equity and economic development, particularly in developing countries where access to energy is limited/costly. This can be done only if there is multi-sectoral collaboration. Goal 7 in the United Nation’s Sustainability Goals is affordable and clean energy, which is key to the development of agriculture, business, communications, education, healthcare, and transportation. Achieving energy and climate goals will require continued policy support and a massive mobilization of public and private capital for clean and renewable energy, especially in developing countries.

The core objectives of Goal 7 are:

  • Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.
  • Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
  • Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.


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Keywords: Sustainable Energy, Renewable Sources, Global Warming, Fossil Fuels, Electricity Demand, ARC Advisory Group.


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