Humanising the Energy Debate in 2021: Reconnecting people and planet

26th January 2021


Humanising the Energy Debate in 2021: Reconnecting people and planet

Written by: Dr Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General and CEO, World Energy Council

The World Energy Community has been directly affected by the global pandemic. Our thoughts and respects go to all  who have suffered during these difficult times, and we wish everyone strength and patience as the new vaccines are rolled-out.

As we look ahead, the Council’s unique worldwide energy community has continued to pull together and step up in this time of crisis. It is a reminder that the World Energy Council was formed in the years immediately after the first global influenza pandemic and before the Great Depression. Today, we operate in the crowded and increasingly fragmented landscape of energy transition leadership with a threat of polarization which is partly fuelled by a fear of the future.

Our important role at the World Energy Council is  to inspire, inform and impact,  made possible with and through the contributions of our whole community.

The World Energy Council’s powerful vision – Humanising Energy

The rise of the new social energy agenda will intensify in 2021 but all too often, the vital link between  people and planet becomes disconnected.

Our vision of humanising energy promotes a new joined-up agenda for action to meet the global imperatives of more energy and climate neutrality, in a new context of affordability and social justice.

The transition cannot be achieved through technology innovation only or without shifting away from the still dominant supply-centric mindset. Customer-centric solutions, broader innovation and more inclusive cooperation are essential.

As a worldwide energy community, we can help societies to recover from crisis and build more resilient energy systems by anticipating new energy uses and shifting demand. We can convene countries, companies, cities and vulnerable communities to identify ‘how to’ translate new visions into action.

Using the Council’s neutrality, we can open safe and honest conversation about fairer management of the full costs to society of accelerating pace by engaging with other sectors. Our Humanising Energy vision essentially champions a more active and inclusive people-centric energy agenda.

The pandemic has exposed an ugly truth about the significant and growing gaps in quality energy access of the developing and the industrially advanced economies. A new post-crisis context of affordability, debt and broader concerns about social justice creates a pivotal moment to refocus attention on the opportunity to make better use of all available technologies while recognising that there is ‘no one size fits all’ and that countries, companies and communities can learn faster, with and from each other.

Three focus areas will shape our world energy leadership agenda in 2021:

  • Managing an affordable human pace in the race to zero – creating a safe space for honest conversations about how societies can manage the full costs of accelerating transition to secure more energy and climate neutrality.
  • Enabling better recovery with regional diversity in energy development and transition pathways, and not overlooking the challenges of building resilience for new energy shocks, including adapting to a 1.5-2 oC warmer world.
  • Redesigning energy markets – to enable more diverse solutions to energy challenges and help accelerate the pace of a clean, affordable, reliable and socially just energy transition. Regulations provide the enabling market framework with the role of regulators ensuring the interest of customers is taken into account. There is a continuous challenge to balance regulatory stability while also being agile and adaptable to keep pace with technological innovation and support the shift to the customer-centric energy future. Regulatory challenges will involve engaging more diverse users, suppliers, producers and traders of energy and cooperating across different economic sectors – transport, industry, health, buildings, etc. Where is innovation leadership coming from to ensure regulatory coherence?

Moving forward in 2021

It is a challenging and promising time. We are determined to continue to pull together and create our common World Energy future. To conclude:

  • The World Energy Council’s powerful vision and practical mission are more relevant than ever to securing the future of humanity and the health of the planet.
  • Collectively, we comprise THE world energy community. No other organisation can match the combined strengths of practical wisdom, nor sustain the depth and diversity of the expertise of our world energy network.
  • We can collectively increase our agility as a deeply embedded and innovative bottom-up energy community of practice and strategically insightful top-down globally networked organisation.

We continue to be working together, and as the world energy community we can make a difference in this all-important year of recovery, healing and progress. We look forward to engagement across our global energy community as we continue to rewrite our destiny and improve the state of energy not only in 2021 but for the future of all humanity.

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