Barriers to Widespread Electrification

A theme that came up in our inaugural meeting with the Energy Brain Trust (meet them here) was the need for widespread electrification by 2040.


  • All households, health centers, and schools have electricity.
  • Private sector supports widespread electrification through private-public partnerships.

What do you see as the major barriers to achieving this vision?

CC @Bakke, @Dginley, @Doug1898, @ramez, @RHobert, @simonbennett

Hi @agval, @clabeaux, @Access600 - What are the major barriers to achieving 100% electrification globally.

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A disconnection of education about our energy systems - food and electricity. The many miles of food travel, long traveling centralized power stations, people quite literally not knowing how the lights turn on, utility stuck in mud profit motives for shareholders, lack of battery deployment.

-just a few reasons I’ve encountered for starters!


Hi Shashi,
I would say that costs, availability of resources and infrastructure/efficiency. To give you some examples, we are currently evaluating the electrification of rails in Southwales. Electrification of the main routes sounds solid, as the costs for implementation and change of lines and trains will be profitable in the short term. However, less demanded routes will make the changes too costly, hence needing fuel-based trains and routes to cope with the long distance, short demand cases. In terms of availability of resources, there are locations where access is extremely poor (i.e. costal areas, stranded resources in isolated locations, etc.) thus requiring flexible power delivery in the form of a simple-to-handle fuel. Finally, if the infrastructure exists, and the efficiency of the process is higher than electric methods, there is no need to replace in the short/medium term the available energy source. Heat is one example, where most electric heaters do not have the same heating efficiency as gas-based heaters, and the infrastructure to deliver natural gas can be used for natural gas+hydrogen (up to 13% vol) without retrofitting. You might know that higher hydrogen content is under evaluation to use current natural gas lines.


Thanks @clabeaux and @agval for sharing these insights into barriers to 100% electrification.

Hi @adventureashr - In the Energizing the Future prize design you had shared some insights on achieving 100% electrification. Since I find your thoughts relevant to this topic, I list it down here. Please feel free to add any more additional thoughts. Thanks.

Hi @Shepard and @Magneto - Would be glad to hear your thoughts on barriers to widespread electrification.

Hi @gyyangand @Ali and @simon - In your views what are barriers to 100% electrification.

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There’s a widespread consensus that full electrification would be the most efficient and flexible method to service power. However, and especially when it comes to renewable power, it requires great capacity and interconnected infrastructure, maybe even a global grid. I’m curious about your thoughts on the prospect of full electrification vis-a-vis our planet’s geopolitics and national borders.

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I am concerned about two items (among many)–
(1) Maintaining a stable grid as penetration by renewables and rapid rise in electrical demand goes forward in the next 20 years. We are still looking for the effective answers.
(2) The coming lithium shortage. Lithium demand is expected to outstrip supply within five years. Some responses are–
(a) Divert utility storage to other technologies that don’t need lithium
(b) Reduce demand from cars by improved unit efficiency and better traffic management. This could include better re-charging options.


Regarding lithium, and more generally, material sustainability issues along the energy supply chain begin to receive increasing attention. Do you think we would be looking at upstream innovations and new materials or downstream solutions that address our waste systems’ challenges?