Energy Transition must have societal support to be sustainable

Posted on 14 October 2013

  • Transitions are only sustainable if they follow the will of society
  • If change is desired then the costs must be made visible
  • Renewables must be scrutinised for how they perform against the market
  • Ideal energy mix is specific to each country

World Energy Congress Daegu 2013, Republic of Korea

The energy transition desired by many governments to lower emissions and increase energy security are only sustainable if they are in line with “the will and need of society” says Leonhard Birnbaum, Vice Chair of WEC in Europe and a member of the executive board of E.ON, Germany. A sustainable energy transition cannot be achieved by applying individual solutions to particular problems, but must follow a systematic balanced approach, he warned, stating that the “ideal energy mix is to deliver to the market what the market wants at the lowest cost”.

Dr. Gudni Johanneson, Chair of the WEC Icelandic National Member Committee, also stressed the importance of letting the markets work in achieving a sustainable energy transition, “before it was renewables or not, now renewable strategies are being scrutinised by how they perform”. Adding that while scientific research can be based on dreams and expectations, reality must be based on existing affordable technology.

Both Makoto Yagi, President of Kansai Electric Power Co., Japan, and Matar Hamed Al Neyadi, Under secretary of the UAE’s Ministry of Energy, agreed with these sentiments. Yagi, apologising to the global energy community for the disruptions caused by the accident at Fukushima, highlighted that Japan has only a 4% self sufficiency ratio in energy and therefore “need to allow nuclear operators to effectively operate their existing plants”.

Al Neyadi illustrated the situation in the UAE, where although progress in renewables is being made, the extreme environmental conditions and local availability of oil make it the obvious energy source of choice. “I believe that the energy mix should be adapted to each country depending on the conditions in that country” he stated, adding “in the UAE we have oil but we cannot use wind or hydro, but in Iceland the situation is the opposite.”


This news story is based on the session, What does it take? “Transition a counrty in a decade” at the 2013 World Energy Congress.