Energy is the material basis for human survival, playing a crucial role in sustainable human development. From the era of firewood to that of coal, oil and gas, and then that of electrification, every shift in the energy era has brought significant opportunities for development. Entering the 21st century, a new round of energy revolution brought on by solar, wind, hydropower and other clean energy systems has the opportunity to accelerate sustainable development, and is profoundly changing the landscape of the world.
Establishing a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system is a golden key to promote sustainable human progress. Energy is also a golden link that widely connects the basic elements of sustainable development and profoundly affects the relationship of human-nature, human-human, and human-society.
At present, promoting energy transition and sustainable development is still an arduous task, at least in the following three aspects. First, the world needs to move at a rapid pace and expanded scale to achieve deep decarbonization by mid-century. Renewable energy generation currently accounts for about 30% of the total global power generation. In order to avoid dangerous climate, this share must be doubled by 2030, and reach 90% by 2050. Second, there is an urgent need to accelerate the process of electrification. Electricity is a clean and economic secondary energy source. All primary energy sources can be converted into electricity, and most of the energy consumption can be electricity. The proportion of electric energy in final energy consumption keeps rising, but at present, except for a few countries, the overall global electrification level is still very low, with fossil fuels still accounting for a large proportion of final energy consumption. Third, energy inter-connectivity needs to be strengthened. Cross-border and inter-regional power flow will be instrumental to allow for large-scale development of clean energy in many cases. Moving forward, the importance of the power system in the world energy allocation will become more and more significant, thus there is a great need to build an interconnected power system which is capable of delivering large scale clean power over a massive geographic area.
Innovation is the fundamental driving force to address the above three major challenges. Technology innovation can significantly improve the efficiency of clean energy production, delivery and utilization, and reduce energy costs. Innovation in policy domain is crucial to create a favorable policy environment, attract investment and financing in line with clean energy transition, and at the same time coordinate the relationship between clean and traditional energy to achieve a fair, just and inclusive energy transition.
Countries have been trying to deploy different strategies and tools to advance innovation in energy technology and policy mechanisms, however, gaps exist not only between the status quo and what is needed for one country, but also between countries in different economic development stages.