What do Artificial Intelligence (AI), heat pumps and electric vehicles (EV) have in common? They are among the great hopes for a successful transition to a more sustainable future, and they need electricity – a lot of electricity.

Thanks to the adoption of new technologies like these electricity demand is booming and it is reshaping how we power everything from factories and vehicles to home appliances and heating systems.

High hopes, high electricity demand

The increase in demand and consumption will need to be matched by sufficient electricity capacity supply in the coming years. In 2022, on a global scale, the biggest sectoral increase in CO2 emissions came from electricity and heat generation, whose emissions were up by 1.8% or 261 Mt.1 As the global community has pledged to the common goal of decarbonizing and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, relying on these sources is not a viable solution. The transition towards sustainable power solutions is inevitable.

Against this backdrop, solutions that utilize renewable energy sources – such as wind and solar – hold immense potential to transform the global energy landscape and to satisfy the ever-growing hunger for energy. But in order to maintain the net zero goal, their expansion must increase from the current 3,000 gigawatts (GW) to over 10,000 GW in 2030, which corresponds to an annual average addition of 1,000 GW.2 This matches roughly to four times the entire installed wind power capacity across Europe in 2022.3

The latest World Energy Outlook describes an energy system in 2030 in which clean technologies play a significantly greater role than today. This includes almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide; solar photovoltaics (PV) generating more electricity than the entire US power system does currently; renewables’ share of the global electricity mix nearing 50% (up from around 30% today); heat pumps and other electric heating systems outselling fossil fuel boilers globally; and three times as much investment going into new offshore wind projects than into new coal- and gas-fired power plants.4

To Venus and back

But the production of the needed electricity is just one side of the equation. The second – equally important – side is the transfer of energy to where and when it is needed.

Grids have formed the backbone of electricity systems for more than a century, delivering power to homes, factories, offices and hospitals – and their importance is only set to rise. However, the traditional power grid – designed for centralized energy production and distribution – faces challenges in accommodating the intermittent nature of the increasing renewable sources.

To accommodate growing demand for electricity and reach national goals, the International Energy Agency estimates that a total of over 80 million kilometers of grids will need to be added or refurbished by 2040 – approximately the same length as the existing global grid5 Just to put this in perspective: this roughly equals the distance from Earth to Venus and back.

The need to keep up the pace

However, new wind and solar farms are being set up at a faster pace than the energy that can be channeled by utilities into the current grid networks. They first require significant upgrades and new equipment to ensure a resilient grid that protects energy supply against extreme weather conditions and to accommodate the increasing communication network complexity. For example, a new grid infrastructure often takes 5 to 15 years to complete, compared with 1 to 5 years for new renewables projects.

Investments in the global electricity grids need to average around USD 600 billion annually through 2030 to get on the net-zero trajectory. This would be almost double the current investment levels, at around USD 300 billion per year.6 Currently, we see action/funding plans laid out across the world to accelerate and support this journey – e.g. the European Net Zero Industry Act and the US Inflation Reduction Act.

Getting a grip of the grid

US infrastructure developer MasTec – a Fortune 500 company – focuses a major part of its business on both sides of the energy equation: the company is the 3rd largest specialty contractor and one of the leading renewables contractors in North America7, with expertise in solar, wind and biomass, hydrogen, carbon capture, waste-to-energy and biogas. At the same time it’s also a leading infrastructure construction company specialized in building underground and overhead distribution systems including power lines, trenches, conduits, but also cables and cell towers.

In other words, MasTec has the infrastructure that generates renewable power, but also connects the US power generation sources to customers. This  includes infrastructure solutions that link remotely located renewable electric generation capacity to energy consumers and provide access to new renewable sources and efficient natural gas. As such MasTec helps reduce the bottleneck of energy transmission and brings forward the green transmission.

From good to smart

But in order to tackle the problem it’s not enough to produce clean energy and take care of the transmission. You also need to do it in a smart way. The modern grid – the “smart grid” – needs to enable real-time response to fluctuations in energy supply and demand, enhance system reliability, and facilitate the integration of renewables and EVs. The smart grid is a collection of energy control and monitoring devices that regulate the flow of power similar to the way traffic lights and stop signs regulate traffic.

Being a specialist in electric distribution but also in communications and high-speed Internet makes MasTec a key company in smart grid deployment and a national leader in this area.

Boosting Clean Energy & Infrastructure

While consequently strengthening the focus on sustainable energy solutions, MasTec in 2022 delivered USD 5.3 billion worth of power and energy projects covering the business areas wind, solar and power delivery.8

The company has a clear plan to continue this trend. An important part of this plan was the 2022 acquisition of Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives (IEA), a North-America utility-scale renewable energy infrastructure solutions provider. This acquisition will significantly expand MasTec’s Clean Energy & Infrastructure segment and its green power construction and maintenance capacity in the country’s push toward a carbon-neutral economy. Also, combining IEA’s renewable energy business with MasTec’s electric transmission capabilities, it gives customers a one-stop solution in the expanding renewable energy markets.

MasTec’s acquisition of IEA increased the scope of its Clean Energy & Infrastructure (CE&I) segment, which had already been among the company’s fastest-growing businesses – expanding at a double digit every year since 2015 as policy support for energy transition spurred a gain in wind and solar capacity development. As a result, CE&I revenues have tripled over the past four years and have reached USD 3.3 bn as of the end of 2023.6

Powering a greener future

Over the past years MasTec has delivered more than 47 gigawatts worth of renewable energy projects. Going forward the company faces a steady strong demand for its sustainable solution projects. As of December 2023 the 18-month backlog, which gives visibility of contracts expected to be completed over the next 18 months, was $12.5 billion. Around 90% were projects in clean energy, power grid and communication networks.9

MasTec’s projects improve the performance, safety, resiliency and efficiency of the electrical grid and advance the goal of modern, smart energy solutions that will contribute to the diversification of power generation sources in the future. This clear focus on the needs of a more sustainable society and its contribution to the transition towards a greener future make MasTec a strong player when it comes to combining resource efficiency and renewable energy.

Renewable energy and resource efficiency 

Two of the three cornerstones of Nordea’s Global Climate and Environment Strategy are renewable energy and resource efficiency. Many companies offering products and services in these areas strive for both attractive value propositions and strong environmental benefits. We firmly believe that investing in companies that use technology and innovation to conserve resources and promote the use of renewable energy is a win for investors and the planet.

1 International Energy Agency “CO2 Emissions in 2022”

2International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). „World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023”.

3 Wind Europe: “Wind energy in Europe: 2022 Statistics and the outlook for 2023-2027”, February 2023.

4 International Energy Agency “World Energy Outlook 2023”

5Electricity grids and secure energy transitions”, IEA, 2023

6 Smart Grids, IEA, July 2023

7 ENR 2023 Top 600 Specialty Contractors, October 2022.

8 Source: MasTec, 2023

9 MasTec Earnings Call Presentation Q3’23