Electricity

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World electricity demand increased by 5% in 2021, with nearly 50% of the increase met by fossil fuels

Derived from the flow of electric charge, electricity has become an integral part of modern life. Many work, communication, transport and leisure activities depend on this form of energy. Given its important role in our lives, access to a secure supply of electricity is essential. Most electricity globally is produced from fossil fuels in large power plants, where heat energy from burning coal, natural gas, or oil is converted into electricity. However, low-carbon sources – nuclear energy and renewables such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass – are making up increasingly large proportions of the global generation mix as a result of efforts to mitigate climate change as well as falling technology costs. The electricity from the generators is typically fed into an electrical grid to be delivered to the consumers. Electricity first flows over large distances through the transmission network and then within regional distribution networks before finally getting delivered into our homes and businesses.

Continually matching the supply of electricity with demand is a complex task. Electricity markets are therefore designed not only to ensure ahead of time that sufficient generation capacity is available for the expected demand (typically through forward contracts) but also to perform real-time balancing using flexibility measures such as dispatchable generation, energy storage and interconnection. Nevertheless, the electricity system is transforming towards an even more complex future. While a higher share of intermittent renewables and decentralised generation in the mix disrupt the supply side, the demand side is challenged by a high level of uncertainty as electrification of heat and transport is advanced as a key decarbonisation strategy. Thus, the future will bring about additional roles for the grid, a greater need for flexibility and new business models, all of which will make electricity systems increasingly dependent upon digital technologies.

Learn more about these sources of electricity by exploring our Energy Insights on this topic.

Discover UK energy professionals' views of the future of electricity, gathered in our annual Energy Barometer.

Search for articles on electric vehicles and the role of electricity in transport published in our New Energy World magazine.

What's new?

Central and Eastern Europe’s largest solar plant connects to the grid

28/09/2022

Operator Goldbeck Solar reports that the first 204 MWp phase of the project began supplying clean electricity to customers this month, making an impor...

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First ever global registry of fossil fuels launched, while North Sea emissions continue to fall

28/09/2022

Launched by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor, the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels suggests that producing and combusting the world’s fossil fu...

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International ‘collaboration gap’ threatens to undermine progress on climate commitments and delay net zero by decades

28/09/2022

Against the backdrop of the energy crisis and the threat of a global food crisis, the inaugural Breakthrough Agenda Report from the International Ener...

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Mass electrification only possible with heavy investment

28/09/2022

Three quarters (76%) of the 400 senior energy professionals contacted in 75 countries say existing grid infrastructure can’t adequately connect renewa...

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South-east Asia could save $160bn through transition, says IRENA

28/09/2022

The Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN) is home to one of the youngest coal power plant fleets in the world. Yet an increasing number of A...

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Events and training

Aviation Jet Fuel - November 2022

22/11/2022 - 24/11/2022

This 3-day training course will provide delegates with an overview of aviation jet fuel, focusing on the jet engine, its underlying principles and fue...

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Powering Net Zero: Series Outcome - a net zero electricity system in an integrated energy system

01/12/2022

For more information, please visit: https://www.energyinst.org/whats-on/search/powering-net-zero

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Technical guidance publications

Research report: Application of life cycle assessment methodology to the understanding of the energy balance and efficiency of hydrogen value chain building blocks

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.This publication explores the efficiencies of the hydrogen energy system and quantifies the ene...

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A site operator's guide to electric vehicle charging equipment at filling stations

2022

This document is aimed at operators of filling stations and those responsible for deciding whether or not to install electric vehicle charging equipme...

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Waste to products – Technology and economic assessment (phase 1)

2022

This document is free to download for registered users.The EMG and Soil Wastes and Groundwater group (SWG) of the EI and Concawe have commissioned E4t...

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IP 630: Determination of the concentration of dispersed particles in diesel fuel – Automatic Particle Counter (APC) Light Obscuration Method

2022

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Guidance on ensuring control room operator (CRO) competence

2022

This publication is free to download for registered users.Control room operators (CROs) perform a critical role in running normal operations, infreque...

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Online tools and software collection

A selection of interactive maps and calculators that let you explore trends across a range of different energy topics, including electricity.

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