Clean Energy Ministerial hints at the future direction of energy

30th September 2020

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Clean Energy Ministerial hints at the future direction of energy

Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.” —Hafiz

This month has been a hectic one for the world energy community, as well as for myself.

I was honoured by the opportunity to address the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM-11) meeting on two occasions. The CEM comprises energy ministers from across the globe with the aim of accelerating the transition to cleaner energy. I emphasised the urgent need to humanise energy and empower people and communities, as the world recovers from crisis and searches for ways to enable more inclusive transformation of the world energy system.

China announced its goal to be climate neutral by 2060. The European Commission reiterated its ambition to be the world’s first climate neutral continent. And the kind Saudi (virtual) hosts of CEM-11 promoted their ambitious vision of circular carbon economy.

We share the ambitions expressed by many countries during the CEM-11 and are working to inspire a different way of thinking about energy transition. This is necessary to avoid the so-called ‘race to zero’ becoming an agenda pushed by elites and paid for by society and especially the most vulnerable.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of energy in all our lives and the revealed gaps productive and affordable access.  Energy transition is a messy and long-term process. Energy touches everyone on the planet.

Next week, we will host World Energy Week LIVE! Twenty sessions over three days on the full range of energy challenges facing our members in 100+ countries around the world.

There is a huge lack of public understanding of the composition of, and trends in, the worldwide energy system. Currently less than 20% of the global energy comes from electricity. Our informed and impartial long-term outlooks highlight that achieving 100% renewable generation of just 40% of the total global energy mix in next two to three decades is not going to be easy. The green power revolution will need other energy friends!

If we really want to focus on the future of the human race, we need a different approach to managing energy transition.  It requires dots to be joined between people, planet and prosperity. We need solutions which engage regional, technological and social diversity as a strength. We need to focus more on the ‘how to’ secure more energy and climate neutrality. This needs to occur, in our new era of affordability and social justice, and in the context of disruption-as-usual. That’s why we have started talking about humanising energy and why we maintain the ‘energy-plus’ agenda.

Better energy for all of humanity – including all present and future generations to come - requires energy policies which balance security, affordability and equity and sustainable development in building new and transforming existing energy systems.

The Covid crisis is a brutal shock on an already stressed world energy system. Estimates are for reductions in global energy demand that we’ve not witnessed before -9% oil, -4% gas, -5% electricity and -6%GDP on a global basis. Some permanent destruction in energy demand is expected. Meanwhile the global demand tsunami - a doubling of energy demand by 2050 - continues to build and will not be fully diminished by second or even third Covid waves, assuming the world manages to develop an effective vaccine.

We are facing the challenge of having to triple the pace of renewable energy use in power generation whilst seeing almost the doubling of demand by 2040 in some parts of the world if we want living standards to remain the same. The so called “green” energy revolution is part but not the whole story of shifting demand. Looking ahead, there will be more diverse energy uses and users.

Cooperation and innovation are combining in powering up a collaborative innovation imperative that includes people and communities, along with companies and countries.

It’s time to get to grips with the confusing language – or ‘lingo-bingo’ - of energy transition.

It’s time for societies to direct attention to the new geopolitics of energy which are broadening beyond oil and include the materiality of the renewables revolution (non-energy resources and land use) and data and digital technologies, with the emergence of a cyber-energy nexus.

Joining the dots between “energy security + affordability and equity + climate neutrality” creates space for transformational opportunities. These include new and diverse net zero carbon and carbon positive pathways, the benefits of increasing interdependencies between ‘clean and green’ and the opportunities for open trade in hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. Its time societies are better engaged in choices that make use of all energy technologies and innovation in reducing, recycling, reusing and removing carbon!

Humanity is still reaching for the stars, not a return to the farm. If you want to inspire, inform a new era of energy that matter to everyone, everywhere and the environment, please register and join us at World Energy Week LIVE!

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