Driving the global energy transition forward — lessons from 6 leaders – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article is brought to you through The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Danny Richmond, Community Manager, Young Global Leaders, World Economic Forum


  • Transitioning our energy systems to sustainable sources is imperative if the world is to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
  • To that end, in June 2022, a select group of young global leaders completed a course on Advancing the Global Energy Transition at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
  • Participants discussed the main challenges and opportunities of transitioning to a more resilient and environmentally sustainable energy society.

Limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C is a monumental but achievable task. The sustainable transition of our global energy systems is fundamental to limiting global warming.

In pursuit of this ambitious goal, 40 Young Global Leaders (YGLs) gathered at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment in June 2022 to learn the technological, organizational, behavioral and financial innovations needed to mitigate and effectively build resilience to the effects of climate change. Through a mix of presentations, panels, and hands-on exercises, participants learned about sustainable energy technologies and systems, planning robust and adaptive energy systems, and decision-making challenges and opportunities.

We asked six leaders from different sectors and regions to share their views on how and what they learned.

Find a balanced approach

Billy Mawasha, Managing Director, Kolobe Nala Investments, South Africa

The transition to sustainable energy resources is a key imperative for our generation. To achieve this, we will need a “balanced diet” of renewable energy resources to achieve a transformed and sustainable energy supply system, as Professor Jesse Jenkins. In particular, the winning strategy includes a mix of renewables such as wind and solar, energy storage systems, such as battery storage and long-term storage with hydrogen, and it includes also firm low-carbon energy sources – nuclear, biomass, gas or coal with carbon capture and storage. An effective strategy recognizes the need for firm baseload supply, and that it can come from resources such as coal, gas or nuclear, resources that developing countries have in abundance. It is essential, however, that these are reallocated to be low-carbon through technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration.

I think this would go a long way toward a just transition globally and challenge and hopefully realign the expectation of 100% renewable energy.

Cooperation between sectors and new technologies is crucial

Joy Dunn, Operations Manager, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, USA

The YGL Princeton module was a fantastic way to connect with YGLs new and old for a broad discussion on the global transition to clean energy and how we all play a part in reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

We are all part of a larger ecosystem needed to enable clean energy for the world, and this will require global cooperation across all sectors, from manufacturing and supply chain to political and social organizations. , through community development and finance. While my daily focus is on engineering and manufacturing new technology innovations, we will only be successful with technology deployments with collaboration across all of these sectors and support from the communities where the technology will be deployed. I leave the module full of energy to continue working on clean energy technologies with a deeper understanding of the broader challenge of climate change and the cooperation needed to achieve net zero in the years to come.

Fueling decarbonization requires long-term thinking and planning

Sanae Lahlou, National Representative, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Morocco

The module helped me to understand the underlying factors that could help countries to achieve the planned actions in their fight against global warming and to meet the urgent need for a sustainable and just energy transition.

In my current position as UNIDO Country Representative in Morocco, it has also helped me realize what has made Morocco a world-class producer of green energy! Long-term planning, clear governance and reduction in the cost of energy produced from renewable energies.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the clean energy transition?

The clean energy shift is key to tackling climate change, but over the past five years the energy transition has stalled.

Energy consumption and production contribute two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Additionally, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018, energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing the energy transition is the lack of preparedness of the world’s largest emitters, including the United States, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries with the highest score in terms of preparedness represent only 2.6% of annual global emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials platform works on initiatives such as Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) works to bring together public and private partners to drive industry transition to put the heavy industry and mobility sectors on an emissions path. net zero. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Commission for Energy Transitions.

Is your organization interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Learn more here.

Investment in technology, capital and infrastructure is needed to make a green future viable

Claudia Vergueiro Massei, Head of Executive Office and Transformation, Motion Control, Siemens, Germany

As we learned through the example of Net Zero America, Princeton University’s proposed pathways to a net zero future, the successful transition of the energy matrix from its current state to a mix of energy sources renewables is highly dependent on a few key factors.

First, a much higher pace of investment in clean energy generation and transmission infrastructure – there is a clear need to increase the pipeline of projects and their completion rate. Capital will be vital for this issue, as well as R&D investment to make new technologies financially viable more quickly. A good example is hydrolysers, which will need to see their cost drop by more than 30% to make green hydrogen competitive.

Second, get people. Without the support of local communities regarding changes in their environment, many large-scale projects may not move forward. “People” also refers to the workforce of incumbent fossil fuel industries, which need to be mobilized and re-skilled in several clean energy technologies to avoid a labor shortage in the fossil fuel industry. energy as a whole.

In both cases, the diversification of energy technologies is essential. Relying on just one or two of them is not enough, especially in times of increasing likelihood of climate disruptions.

Energy transition solutions must consider reliability, affordability and social equity

Dorjee Sun, CEO, BioEconomy, Singapore

It was a revelation to me that projected future energy demands required a diversified portfolio approach, systemic thinking, and that the scale of investment required was an order of magnitude greater than what investors are currently considering.

Indeed, as an innovation start-up technologist, I am always grappling with the fact that clean technology is not factored into peer-reviewed energy transition projections, and that we need to give the prioritizing reliability, affordability and social equity rather than our carbon footprint alone.

However. the penny dropped when Professor Jesse Jenkins explained that the future energy mix must be as diverse as your diet. As much as I love bananas, I would be bananas to eat nothing but bananas.

Despite its difficulty, we have a moral responsibility to accomplish this task

Carlos de Hart, CEO, Agroince, Colombia

As a species, we have a clear responsibility for the negative impact of climate change that we have witnessed over the past decades – forest fires, droughts and floods, for example. Therefore, we also have a huge moral obligation to change this reality and forge a better future for our children. The strength of our response is based on bringing together actors with diverse backgrounds and knowledge who, by sharing a holistic and cross-cutting approach to the issues we face, deliver a complete and global vision of the problem posed and respond to it effectively, despite its complexity. .

Find out how the World Economic Forum is accelerating the energy transition.3

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