The Future of Electricity: New Technologies Transforming the Grid Edge

wef-future-of-electricity-2017-cover A reliable, economically competitive and environmentally sustainable electricity system is the cornerstone of a modern society. The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the digital revolution and combines multiple technologies that are leading to unprecedented paradigm shifts in the economy, business, society, and for individuals. It involves the transformation of entire systems. The electricity landscape is a prime example of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it undergoes transformation, becoming more complex than ever before, with rapidly evolving technologies, emerging innovative business models and shifting regulatory landscapes.

Building on the World Economic Forum’s previous work on the Future of Electricity and the Digital Transformation of Industries platforms, we have examined three major trends affecting the electricity grid: electrification, decentralization and digitalization. Our recommendations aim to accelerate the deployment of these grid edge technologies and the economic and societal benefits they bring.

Towards those goals, this report identifies critical actions for public- and private-sector participants to hasten the deployment and integration of grid edge technologies, to increase sustainability, customer choice, reliability, security and asset utilization. These recommendations support the Forum’s efforts to understand and shape industry transformation across all sectors through global System Initiatives.

The trends and recommendations described in this report were discussed at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in a high-level roundtable that included policy-makers, technology innovators and pioneers, automakers and representatives from industry—utilities, renewable developers and equipment manufacturers. The Forum intends to collaborate with countries and policy-makers around the world to examine the promotion of grid edge technologies in various markets.

This report seeks to present a holistic view of the evolving electricity landscape, and the recommendations target the system level rather than individual entities. We trust this platform will help accelerate the integration of grid edge technologies for the benefit of society.

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