A Message from the World Energy Council

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New World Energy Council Chair gives inaugural speech

13th October 2016


"Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

"At the outset, I want to thank the Turkish government for hosting the 2016 World Energy Congress.

"In particular, we are indebted to President Recép Tayyíp Érdogan, Prime Minister Bin Áli Yildirím, and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berát Albáyrak for their outstanding support for the Congress.

"I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Hasan Murat Mercan as chair of the 2016 Congress Organising Committee and his team for their tireless efforts to make this important global event successful.

"This event would not have been possible without the collaboration, support and hard work of everyone involved, and on behalf of the World Energy Council, its Board and its members, I want to offer our deepest gratitude.

"The energy industry is in a grand transition because of broader global trends, ranging from climate change to the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is fundamentally transforming the global economic landscape.

"We are seeing a paradigm shift from a carbon-based economy powered by the combustion of fossil fuels to one based on new sources of energy and new modes of power generation. Yet, fossil fuels will continue to play an important role because we cannot meet our pressing energy demands without them.  According to our latest Scenarios, fossil fuels will comprise at least 50% of the global primary energy mix even in 2060.

"Confronted with this reality, what can we still do to prepare for the future?

"The answer is twofold. We not only need to develop clean and more efficient ways to produce and use fossil fuels, but also search for new technologies for alternative energies, The coming decades will help define the winners and losers of this energy transition. All of us must innovate or eventually perish.

"We already know the global energy industry is confronted with a ‘trilemma’ – balancing the competing priorities of energy security, sustainability and affordability. These choices are about to become even more pressing in light of threats from climate change.

"In this vein, we share the spirit of the Paris Agreement at COP21 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services.

"Now what our industry sorely needs are visionaries who have the whole picture of this sea change in their sight. There are many competing energy scenarios for the future. But an emerging consensus is that we have to desperately search for a new generation of sustainable technology.

"It is clear that a more sustainable energy system requires us to search for what is the right technology for the right place at the right price.

"For example, what we need is a grid scale energy storage system that can once and for all overcome the conundrum of the intermittency of wind and solar power.

"The energy industry must accelerate the pace of innovation. Also we have to identify and finance promising inventors and commercialise disruptive technologies.

"We should seek out and support the future Michael Faradays toiling in the labs or workshops from Nairobi to New York.

"We need to recapture the spirit of devotion and passion that was present at the beginning of the modern energy industry. This spirit was embodied by Faraday who sparked the electricity revolution in the 19th century that transformed the whole world.

"Faraday came from a very poor family, and he had almost no formal education. But he went on to make some of the most important discoveries that still propel our modern industrial age.  A long list of his remarkable achievements includes the discovery of electromagnetic induction and the invention of the dynamo and the electric motor.  And, by the way, Faraday never applied for any patents for his inventions. In other words, he gave away all his intellectual property for the public good.

"Energy companies must reinvent themselves. We are at the threshold of a whole new industrial era. This trend is driven by technological advances for smart cities, connected homes and big data. It is also supported by remarkable progress in material science, artificial intelligence and molecular machining to name just a few.

"Let us be on the winning side of the energy transition.

"Companies outside the energy sector, such as Tesla, Uber, and even Google are doing things that are affecting the energy sector.

"How much more must we in the energy sector do in terms of innovation to transform our own industry?

"As a good reference, I would like to mention Southern California Edison, which has set up an Advanced Technology lab.  It is focused on energy storage, automation and digital communications. The goal is to improve the efficiency and reliability of electricity grids powered by a growing share of renewable energy sources.

"The energy transition doesn’t have to be a painful one if we have the right vision and audacity to take the road not normally taken.

"I often meet with scholars and experts from around the globe to discuss frontier energy innovations. Recently, I visited Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK. They are developing robots run by microbial fuel cells, which are fed by organic waste.  At the University of Massachusetts, I have seen the development of an electrolysis cell.  This cell enables microbes to produce methane by feeding them with electrons.

"I am very excited by this type of work.  Such research seems to suggest a transition from the exploitation of dead microbes, which are the raw material for fossil fuels, to sharing energy with living organisms instead.  I was also encouraged to see this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to three researchers for their contribution to developing molecular machines.  One of them, Dr. Ben Feringa, invented a four-wheel drive nanocar with a molecular motor built into it. With molecular machining, I hope new energy storage devices may appear soon.

"Now, more than ever we need to nurture a whole new generation of energy innovators. We must explore ways to inspire the most brilliant minds to come up with appropriate energy solutions. Then, we must bring them together with forward-looking financiers to help commercialize technological breakthroughs. We must connect the brightest minds with the deepest pockets.

"Furthermore, now is also the time to go beyond energy. We cannot ignore any longer the world’s rising demand for food and water.

The energy industry must deal with the fact that food, energy, and water sectors are becoming more interdependent due to pressures from climate change. Thus, any breakdown in one element of the nexus inevitably affects negatively on either one or both of the remaining elements. The collapse of the food, energy, water nexus would eventually undermine the very foundations of the global economy.

"Our industry has produced a long list of achievements since the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century. We also have succeeded so far in providing affordable and widely available energy in many parts of the world.

"Thus it would be natural that we should now be the ones to help offer secure, sustainable, and equitable solutions to overcome the challenges of the energy trilemma while simultaneously contributing to the resilience of the food, energy, water nexus.

"This quest is every bit as ambitious and vital as the commitment made by humanity to space exploration since the 1960s, in which the private sector is now assuming a growing role. As such, we must now to go beyond energy sector and enhance innovative collaboration among all the relevant stakeholders in the food, energy, and water nexus.

As I close, I would like to thank Marie-José Nadeau for her dedicated service to the Council over the past two decades and for her outstanding leadership as chair of the World Energy Council.

"She was the first female Chair of the Council in its 93-year history, and leaves behind a valuable legacy that will benefit us for years to come.

"I want to further express my personal gratitude to Marie-Jose for her support during my term as Co-Chair.

"I also want to welcome Jean-Marie Dauger as my Co-chair and look forward to working closely with him over the next three years.

"Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to call on all my colleagues to reach out to the technology community and financial industry as well as to the food and water sectors.

"The Council must play a pivotal role in this process by providing a vision and a roadmap for the sustainability and resilience of the global economy.

"In fact, this should not be our mission only, but also that of everyone else in the energy sector.  I urge all our colleagues in the energy community to join the World Energy Council in this noble endeavour.

"Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen

"Let us go forward together to embrace the new frontiers of energy.

"Thank you very much."


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