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Three things the world’s energy transition leaders have in common

An aerial view of tulip fields that include renewable energy facilities - specidically wind and solar.
A multi-purpose farm in the Netherlands. Photo: Dreamstime

While there are multiple ways to go about the shift to clean electricity, the frontrunners have at least three things in common, research group Ember says in its latest report.

“Some common key enablers are galvanising the rapid growth in solar and wind around the world: high-level policy ambition, incentive mechanisms to unlock residential and utility-scale deployment, and removing technical barriers,” the London-based think tank writes in its Global Electricity Review 2024.

It references China, Brazil, and the Netherlands as examples of countries that are achieving rapid power sector transformations — yet they have “very different starting points” and unique geographies.

China added an astounding 301GW of new renewable energy capacity in 2023, Brazil has become a wind and solar powerhouse, and the Netherlands is shifting away from coal- and gas-based electricity at a blistering pace.

Ember notes that all of them have ambitious targets in place, which guide long-term planning and provide policy certainty to households, businesses and investors.

They’ve also introduced policies that incentivise the adoption of wind and solar, such as feed-in tariffs and net-metering schemes that reward households that feed excess generation into the grid. Grid-scale projects are supported by state-led auctions, which promote competition, as well as tax incentives and power purchase agreements.

Finally, the three countries have also been adept at removing technical barriers to the deployment of wind and solar, such as grid connection challenges and the rigidity of the traditional power system.

Among other things, they’ve worked to ensure their remaining fossil fuel plants are flexible — meaning they can quickly ramp up or down their output, as required — while simultaneously investing in energy storage, creating “smarter” grids, redesigning electricity market rules, and encouraging demand-side participation.

“Furthermore, using natural resources effectively means facilitating the development of wind and solar in regions where conditions are more suitable through long distance transmission.

“And with the electrification of transport, heating and industry, smart demand strategies, for example for electric vehicle charging or heat pump use, can match demand with wind and solar generation patterns and ease integration,” Ember says.

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