Digitalization and Energy

Digital technologies permeate modern life, affecting everything from the way we work and travel, to the way we live and play. Digitalization holds great promise to help improve the safety, productivity, efficiency and sustainability of energy systems worldwide. But it also raises questions of security, privacy and economic disruption. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has been focused on the interplay between digitalization and energy for many years. We formulated smart grid roadmaps in 2011 and 2017. We have tracked the progress of electric vehicles and smart charging, and analysed renewables integration and energy use by connected devices. We are finding that digitalization is becoming increasingly important to a wide variety of energy sectors. Furthermore, with digital technologies changing so rapidly, there are many unknowns about how technology, behaviour and policy will evolve over time and how these dynamics will impact energy systems into the future. To ensure a more systematic and co-ordinated approach to our efforts, I established a cross-agency Digitalization and Energy Working Group in 2016. Drawing on expertise from across the agency, we are now presenting this first comprehensive examination of digitalization and energy.

Our aim is to provide an accurate and balanced view of what is happening today. Using our analytical tools, we are also beginning to paint a picture of what could happen next. In addition to this report, a new interactive website complements our efforts and provides an alternative way to access our findings. This effort has benefited from the guidance and feedback of IEA member, association and partner countries as well as energy and technology companies (including those of the IEA Energy Business Council). All of these governments and companies are seeking insights into the opportunities and challenges of digitalization across the whole energy system. Our hope is that this report will be a clear and accessible step toward helping all global actors better navigate the rapidly changing digitalization and energy landscape.