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Weekly data: Grids largely overlooked ahead of COP26

Only 24% of Paris Agreement signatories have referred to grid improvements – essential to build out renewables – in national climate plans that are meant to get the world on track to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

For most countries, deploying renewable energies is the overwhelming priority to mitigate climate change. Relatively few prioritise grid development, although this will be essential to absorb increasing amounts of wind and solar power.

These findings are based on a synthesis report of national climate action plans – so-called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement – prepared by the Secretariat of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change a month ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, UK. The report covers the 164 latest available submissions, including 86 NDCs updated by the end of July 2021. The commitments cover 93% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 80% of countries are planning to deploy renewable energies in their attempt to comply with the Paris Agreement, shows Energy Monitor’s Weekly Data. Yet only 24% refer to grid improvements in their NDCs. In addition, while the electric vehicle revolution is accelerating in countries like Germany, only 28% of countries mention the electrification of transport as a mitigation measure.

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Workers rehabilitate electricity networks in the town of Atma near the Syrian-Turkish border as part of an ongoing project to supply areas with electricity. (Photo by Rami Alsayed/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The ‘energy efficiency first’ principle similarly appears to be lacking, with energy efficiency improvements getting nearly half the mentions of renewables. Overall, efforts will need to be increased to get on track to net zero. The current NDCs will cut global emissions by 12% in 2030 compared with 2010 levels; the decease needs to be 45% for climate neutrality by 2050.

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Deploying more renewables at speed and scale depends on an adequate grid. The centrality of grids to the energy transition needs greater recognition – in the last six years investments in electricity networks have stagnated across the globe.

To keep pace with the growing share of renewables, grids require a more integrated approach to planning, supportive policy frameworks and innovation to get energy from generation to end users. As vice-president of SOO Green HVDC Link Steve Frenkel said in conversation with Energy Monitor in July: If you want more renewables, you need more transmission.”

This article is part of a special series GlobalData Media is publishing in the run-up to COP26, which takes place in Glasgow from 1-12 November 2021. Our focus is on the opportunities and challenges for business of the transition to clean energy and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Other articles in this series include: 

Mirela Petkova

Mirela Petkova is a researcher based in Sofia, Bulgaria.