We present and analyze three powerful long-term historical trends in energy, particularly electrical energy, as well as the opportunities and challenges associated with these trends. The first trend is from a world containing a diversity of energy currencies to one whose predominant currency is electricity, driven by electricity’s transportability, exchangeability, and steadily decreasing cost. The second trend is from electricity generated from a diversity of sources to electricity generated predominantly by free-fuel sources, driven by their steadily decreasing cost and long-term abundance. These trends necessitate a just-emerging third trend: from a grid in which electricity is transported unidirectionally, traded at near-static prices, and consumed under direct human control; to a grid in which electricity is transported bidirectionally, traded at dynamic prices, and consumed under human-tailored artificial agential control. These trends point toward a future in which energy is not costly, scarce, or inefficiently deployed but instead is affordable, abundant, and efficiently deployed; with major economic, geo-political, and environmental benefits to humanity.

Tsao, J., Schubert, E., Fouquet, R., & Lave, M. (2018). The electrification of energy: Long-term trends and opportunities. MRS Energy & Sustainability, 5, E7. doi:10.1557/mre.2018.6

Keep in touch with the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Sign up to our newsletters and get the latest analysis, research, commentary and details of upcoming events.