World Energy Council Secretary General presents to Vienna Energy Forum

Posted on 15 May 2017

The Vienna Energy Forum (VEF) 2017 themed ‘Sustainable energy for the implementation of the United Nations SDGs and the Paris Agreement’ convened from 9-12 May 2017 in Vienna, Austria. VEF 2017 focused on the importance of the linkages between climate and development, and examined the role of innovation in achieving SDG 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and related SDGs.

World Energy Council Secretary General, Dr Christoph Frei, was one of a few special guest speakers at a high-level executive dinner discussion, during the forum, organised in association with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the International Institute for applied system analysis (IIASA). Moderated by the Financial Times, it gathered senior policy-makers, business leaders and scientists to discuss the critical role the clean energy sector has to play in advancing the world’s sustainable development agenda.

The emphasis of the evening’s talks and discussion was on finding joined-up approaches to addressing implementation challenges around the SDGs – and SDG clusters – that are reliant on energy system innovations to accomplish. In his speech Dr Frei spoke about “clash of energy civilisations” that occurred during the 23rd World Energy Congress, and explored whether big is still beautiful? He also gave an overview of the disparity of resilience measures across different regions in the world.

The dinner gave ample opportunity for the participants to discuss and contribute their thinking on the implementation issues raised, and the range of solutions presented by speakers. The format was designed to make the most of the knowledge, not just of contributing speakers, but of dinner guests themselves through these conversations, to break through the fences that can sometimes spring up between the adjacent fields of policy, business and science.

Capacity building and training

Dr Frei also held bilateral meetings with Li Yong, Director General, UNIDO. They discussed key priorities for UNIDO as well as explored areas for potential collaboration with the World Energy Council. Dr Frei highlighted the World Energy Academy as one area to further consider in this context, which is the Council’s energy leadership & talent development process. Capacity building and training of policy makers and regulators in particular, is a high priority for UNIDO in countries where they have technical assistance projects.

On the final day of the Forum, Dr Frei participated in a high-level panel, ‘Exploring business models to unlock finance; supporting sustainable energy investments’.

Dr Frei discussed decarbonisation and importance of framework stability; the impact of transition from central to more decentral; the importance of market design review; the impact of new risks and how this affects system financing abilities; the importance of rural electrification & new business models, relevant policy aspects and policy stability and balancing the energy trilemma.

Implementing the SDGs

Participants at the event agreed on ten key messages that highlight the catalytic role of energy for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate including:

  • Many of the capital investments made today have a very long replacement time, therefore the energy choices we make today will lock us into a development path for decades to come. Long-term integrated strategies are imperative to cover all SDGs. The deadline set for the SDGs highlights the urgency of moving forward now if we are to these goals by 2030, show substantial progress by 2020 and gather momentum for the future 2050 development targets. The vision for 2050 for sustainable development must shape the decisions made today.

  • Sustainable solutions depend on innovative and inclusive business models that can be scaled up, replicated, and are self-sustaining. These business models exist already and are ripe for financing by financial institutions, development banks, as well as private investors.
  • The financial resources necessary to accomplish SDG 7 and the Paris Agreement also exist, yet the appropriate instruments are not being applied in a way that enables new businesses to blossom and large-scale projects to move forward. This represents a collective opportunity for collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sector to provide such solutions.

About the Vienna Energy Forum

The VEF is a biennial, global and multi-stakeholder forum launched in 2008 to explore development challenges from the perspective of sustainable energy and to debate solutions to those challenges. It is a joint initiative of the Austrian Government, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

The Forum featured side events from 9-10 May and plenary sessions from 11-12 May. The fifth edition of the Vienna Energy Forum brought together over 1,650 participants from 128 countries.  The event was also  co-organised by the Austrian Government, and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).

Vienna Energy Forum (VEF) 2017

Pictures on Flickr