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Security of supply needs a more comprehensive approach if the energy transformation challenges are to be met, IEA indicates in a new report.

Evolving challenges include cyber threats, extreme weather events and not least the rapidly growing shares of variable renewable generation from wind and solar. And each of these impacts on security of supply in a different way.

Electricity accounts for about a fifth of total final energy consumption today. But its share is rising with the decarbonisation of heating, cooling and transport and the growth of other digitally integrated sectors. The IEA World Energy Outlook scenarios have electricity demand increasing by roughly 50% in the next 20 years.

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Thus, the need for robust electricity security measures will become a prerequisite for the proper functioning of modern economies and puts electricity security higher than ever on the energy policy agenda, says the IEA in the report Power systems in transition.

“Energy security is at the heart of the IEA’s mission because it is critical for social wellbeing, economic prosperity and successful clean energy transitions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, IEA executive director.

“Electricity is essential for the functioning of modern societies and for bringing down global emissions. This is why we are continuing to expand and deepen our work on electricity security.”

The report says that the trends call for a broader approach to electricity security and it sets out recommendations towards enhanced security of supply.

Recommendations

An essential goal is to make systems more flexible so they can smoothly accommodate the variable electricity production from wind and solar. This includes making the best use of the existing flexibility assets and ensuring they are kept when needed, but also developing new assets including demand side technologies and storage resources.

However, global investment in these areas is declining and needs to be reversed with market designs that reward such resources.

The growing digitalisation of electricity systems and accompanying rise of cyber threats requires that they be made more cyber resilient. Policy makers, regulators, utilities and equipment providers all have a role to ensure cyber resilience of the entire value chain.

Governments also can adopt a range policy and regulatory approaches ranging from highly prescriptive to framework-oriented or performance-based.

Impacts of climate change include more extreme weather events and rising sea levels and similarly electricity systems need to be made more resilient to these incidents. Effective policy measures play a significant role in building climate resilience and it should be given a higher priority in electricity security policies.

The IEA suggest that while these three areas require different responses, several overarching principles are applicable to all. These include establishing clear responsibilities, incentives and rules; undertaking regular system wide risk analyses; improving preparedness across the
electricity supply chain; recording and sharing experiences; and coping with outages or attacks and capturing the lessons learned.