Electricity 4.0: The future of power in
the age of climate change
Mains Paper 3:
Prelims level :
Mains level :
- Electrical energy in simplistic terms is a juncture that inter-connects
economic prosperity, amplifies social equity and ushers in a liveable
environment for us.
- No development in its true sense is possible if we leave aside energy
and specifically sustainable energy.
- It is almost indispensable for holistic and sustainable progress of any
Role of Coal in electricity production:
- Coal is currently the most common raw material for electricity
- Ever since the industrial revolution, development has almost singularly
relied on the burning of fossil fuels, emitting huge volumes of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere.
- As per data by World Coal Association, a little over 41% of all
electricity generated is produced from coal.
- Owing to high level of hazardous carbon emissions and rising levels of
pollution (water and air pollution during mining and air pollution during
burning), added to the disastrous working conditions of miners, coal cannot
be regarded as a sustainable source of energy.
Fossil fuels impact on climate change:
- Moreover, global warming and its toxic impact on our environment has
never been more pronounced.
- Despite increasing awareness, not much is being done to mitigate climate
- IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has reiterated that
unless global temperature rise is not kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius,
natural and human systems will be irreparably damaged.
- Even a slight increase in atmospheric temperature by 2 degrees Celsius
will result in substantial rise in sea levels, which would in turn translate
into a whopping 10 million more people going homeless and another 50%
people facing severe water scarcity.
- To join the efforts, many global public and private stakeholders have
pledged their allegiance into becoming net-zero carbon emitters.
- However, we are still far from achieving our objectives, as the IEA
(International Energy Agency) recently reported that the Earth’s temperature
rise will range between 1.8 degrees Celsius and 2.7 degrees Celsius soon.
Electricity 4.0 and its major challenges:
- Therefore, to lay the foundation stone for a sustainable future, there
is a critical need to investigate how we create and consume energy.
- To contain global warming and surging pollution levels within
permissible limits, Electricity 4.0, that is, sustainable methods of energy
generation and efficient and cost-effective usage of produced energy is of
- Renewables becoming the dominant source of power, globally.
- There is a growing need to build a new form of energy mix, with
renewable ways of electricity creation, at its very core.
- A new order where electrical internet of things (EIOT), cloud computing,
artificial intelligence and the tools of today’s digital era are fully
leveraged to maximise energy efficiency.
Advantages of using renewable energy:
- Considering that the primary cause of global warming is atmospheric
carbon dioxide, which is almost exclusively produced from burning coal, oil
and gas, the first strategy to combat it would be to electrify our planet.
- Augmented proliferation of energy-efficient, electricity-based equipment
that are prevalent now, such as e-mobility, electrical heating, innovative
applications such as electric aviation fleets can be one way to go about it.
- Similarly, renewable energy can be the other, as it not only extracts
energy from limitless sources, such as solar, hydro and wind, but can also
generate sustainable electricity without any combustion, leaving no carbon
- Therefore, the immediate need is to scale up the production of renewable
electricity and build conducive public-policy frameworks to further this
- Also, it is imperative to adopt digital technology in order to optimise
the efficiency of our energy consumption and electrical networks.
- Digital connectivity, software and artificial intelligence can well be
dubbed as the fulcrum that will support our transition toward Industry 4.0.
- In order to build a sustainable future, creating a clean and new
electric world is the need of the hour.
- Increased electrification, widespread use of renewables and the
resultant reliability and affordability will not only make massive
decarbonisation achievable but would also manifest 90% of the reductions
needed in energy-related emissions.
- However, it must be noted that to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
or to promote energy decarbonisation, concerted efforts are required from
all stakeholders - the community, regions, government and the private
- Renewable energy is not only beneficial to the environment, but also has
the potential to bring in new jobs and newer financial and economic
Describe the role of coal in electricity production? Do you think renewable
energy can replace the future energy requirement?