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Driven by strong demand for clean energy and mounting impacts from climate-driven extreme weather, entities around the world are setting ambitious goals to scale back emissions from the fossil fuels that have powered economic processes for over a century.

The majority of emissions come from three sectors: electricity generation, transportation, and buildings.

Steep increases in renewables will reduce electric sector emissions and power new loads from transportation and buildings.

But the grid must undergo profound changes for this to occur.

Electricity will drive global decarbonisation. the longer-term grid must first be clean. No feasible, affordable path exists to exchange gasoline with a carbon-free liquid fuel for vehicles, nor gas with a carbon-free alternative for cooking and heating.

No path, that is, aside from electrifying vehicles and buildings, is recognized because of the lowest-cost, lowest-risk decarbonization strategy.

Clean electricity will drive emissions reductions across the economy. Some renewable energy will still come from power plants, but those are often difficult to create, as are often the long transmission lines that bring power to users.

Against this, local renewables can provide clean, affordable power to customers more easily, making it decentralized.

The future grid will address key challenges: power outages and economic losses from extreme weather.

With these events becoming more frequent and severe, maintaining the grid’s century-old, centralized architecture may be a costly proposition. It must be resilient.

With renewables, growth, and variation in electricity services also as significant unpredictability in supply and demand, the grid must become dynamic. And so as for that grid to function, it must be smart.

On an increasingly complex future grid, the number of selections will far exceed human and traditional digital automation capabilities.

There’s already automation on today’s grid, but automation can only go thus far.

Fully enabling a future grid and maximizing its benefits would require AI.

Ultimately, AI will transform the grid from an aging supplier of commodity electricity to an intelligent “system of systems” that produces optimized outcomes.

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