Social innovation can make a difference - World Energy Leaders' Summit, New Delhi

Posted on 11 February 2013

– by Monique Tsang

The World Energy Leaders’ Summit (WELS) in New Delhi on 6 February gathered 78 senior energy figures from 30 countries, including 5 ministers and deputy-ministers.

EVENT_WELS_20130206_UmaShankarThe event was, as usual, held in private to ensure that the discussion was as free and as informative as possible.

In the welcome address P. Uma Shankar (pictured), the Indian Union Secretary for Power and Chair of WEC-India, called for action on solving the energy trilemma, pointing to the 1.3 billion people who still lack access to energy.

He highlighted the need for the South Asian region. “For this region, three countries – India, China, and Bangladesh – account for more than half of the world’s peoples without clean cooking fuels.”

Achieving the basic social need of energy access required social innovation, he said.

He cited the success of social innovation programmes such as India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission in having “enormously impacted on the rural economy”, and which could offer lessons for the energy sector.

The NRLM is woven around community-based institutions that provide financial and technical services for the rural poor, thereby promoting skill and employment for them to sustain a living.

How to energise social innovation to solve the energy trilemma was the subject of the Summit, where closed discussions covered the energy–water nexus, accelerating the roll-out of renewables, solving the power supply–demand equation, and implications of the global shale gas revolution.

Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, India’s Minister of State for Power, and Farooq Abdullah, the Minister of New and Renewable Energy, gave special addresses.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) addressed the Summit by video.  She told delegates: “The trilemma identified by the WEC is synonymous with addressing the challenge of climate change… The only way to address this triple challenge is to interlink the three parts of the solution: the international regulatory framework, national policy development, and private sector investment.”

While progress is being made on all three fronts, thus far the pace and scale of change remain “woefully insufficient”.  Catalysing progress requires governments and the private sector “to break their impasse”, she said.

Ms Figueres praised the WEC’s recent World Energy Trilemma report for shining light on how to break this impasse, and voiced her hope that the report’s message would be taken up by the energy leadership community.

The World Energy Leaders’ Summit was organised with significant support of WEC-India, the WEC’s Indian Member Committee. A full summary of the Summit will be available on the WEC website during March.

■ Watch the video address by Christiana Figueres here.