Electricity's share in the total final energy mix has kept on increasing, so as to represent around 18% of final energy and close to 40% primary energy consumption, Energy-Fakten found out.
This raises concern about an "all electrical society," which is sometimes perceived as a negative evolution. However, this view is questioned by the authors, who ask whether electricity really does hinder "primary energy demand to go down," and if electricity should be regarded as "a high quality but polluting energy form, that should be only used when there is no alternative."
In fact, H. De Keulenaer argues, "the 'all-electrical society' may well be the cleanest, most cost-effective route forward."
To analyse this argument, H. De Keulenaer and J. Grave suggest adopting an "integrated resource viewpoint," that takes into account the efficiency of electricity to deliver energy services. This approach leads the authors to make a positive drawbacks/advantage balance for electricity. Indeed, they demonstrate the high efficiency of electrical applications:
- Appliances to convert electricity into energy services are steadily improving;
- Despite conversion losses in power generation, using electricity as energy carrier can stimulate primary energy savings and cut in greenhouse gas emissions (cf. speed electric train vs. diesel trains, not to mention air transport);
- Electricity allows for "system-level efficiencies," that is, for considerable reduction or elimination of the need for other energy services – see for example the fact teleworking decreases the need to commute.
The researchers conclude that energy should not systematically be considered as "the bad student:" "there is a lot of supporting evidence for a claim that electricity can save energy," as long as means to exploit this potential are sufficiently developed.