The Energy Transition: Key challenges for incumbent and new players in the global energy system

The IPCC report on climate change published in August 2021 has provided a stark reminder that human activity is unequivocally responsible for global warming and changing environmental conditions on Earth. At the same time, the growing commitment of governments and companies across the world to net zero emissions targets is an encouraging sign that the reality of the world’s climate crisis is now being understood while also being a sharp reminder that actions, not just words, will be needed if the rise in global temperatures is to be limited to 1.5o C this century. While the overall goal of the energy transition is clear, the pathways to efficient decarbonisation are not obvious, and could be varied, based on different contexts. This paper attempts to synthesize the key challenges and consequences of the energy transition, both for incumbent actors and new entrants, and for the countries in which they operate. Building on and extending previous and ongoing OIES research on the Energy Transition, the paper aims to conceptualise a framework upon which further research can be undertaken on these pathways, and lays out some of the key consequences of them for the overall energy system. It explores the potential impact on the energy value chain, looking at the future of networks, the consequences for and interactions with consumers, and the implications for corporate business models. It then considers the evolution and development of markets, both for existing and future energy products, before looking at the changes from the perspectives of different regions and sectors, acknowledging that many countries and industries are embarking on the energy transition from very different starting points and that any attempts to reach a global consensus must take this into account in order to provide a “just and inclusive transition”. It then looks at potential sectoral developments for energy-consuming sectors such as heating and transport, and finally, it considers the consequences of the adjustments to the global energy economy on geopolitics and energy security.

By: James Henderson , Anupama Sen