Interview: Dr.Angela Wilkinson

Dr.Angela Wilkinson,
Secretary General & CEO at World Energy Council

“Today, the energy industry is advocating Sustainability at an accelerated pace. In your opinion, how has the industry progressed in encouraging and implementing Sustainability as a way of functioning?”

Since the World Energy Council was founded in 1923 there has been considerable evolution in the energy sector and society’s energy use. Following the First World War, the Council formed in response to the challenge of “Energy for Peace” and to help nations share expertise on harnessing the increasing diversity of resources and developing nuclear and thermal power. After the Second World War, the emphasis shifted to “Energy for Growth”, when the increasing global diversity of supply and resources enabled the liberalization of energy markets, especially following the Oil Shock of 1973. In the latter period of this era, the context of the global energy transition was shaped by the interaction of four key global drivers of changes: diversification, digitization, decentralization, and decarbonization.

Today how energy is used, traded, supplied and produced are shifting fast and fundamentally. There is greater diversity in the global energy mix – heat, power and liquid fuel pathways; renewable, hydro, fossil and nuclear energy resources and technologies.

Energy transition has entered a new era that I refer to as “Energy for Humanity.” it is not a game to be won, but the pivot for the future of everyone, everywhere.

“What are the present trends that are been observed in the energy sector? How it is changing the business landscape for a greener tomorrow?”

The interaction of these multiple, global drivers of change is enabling fundamentally new ways of using, trading, supplying and producing clean, reliable and affordable energy. In response to the faster pace of technology innovation and increasingly stricter environmental and climate mitigation policies, another’ has entered the field - demand-side disruption.

A broader set of energy system shapers are emerging, with energy transition leaders in non-energy sectors, new users and shifting uses, and the rise of a new people power – digitally empowered customers, prosumers, globally-connected cities, and autonomous energy communities. At the same time, societal acceptability and affordability issues associated with accelerating the pace of technology innovation and stricter environmental policies are becoming evident.

The outlook is for a customer-centric system, with increasing demand for value-adding, energy-plus services and the rise in power of digitally empowered, active customers and greater leveraging of citizens and human rights.

“The energy sector is moving towards technology-based operational transformation. What impact has the technology innovation made catering to meet its present and future energy demand?”

The risk of fragmentation is increasing – the accelerating pace of combinatorial (digital and physical) technology innovation is a double-edged sword. The social impacts of the faster and cleaner energy transition are poorly understood and inadequately addressed. For example, price and value need to be reconnected. There is a role for imagination, collaboration, and generous leadership. Adopting a whole system approach to energy transition is essential to enable new and more effective collaboration which combines top-down strategy and bottom-up innovation. There is a need to engage new unconventional players including energy transition leaders from non-energy sectors, digital demand aggregators and those impacted by the transition. The energy transition cannot be pushed against society. It is being pulled by new energy societies.

“Please tell us about the key risks/concerns that the sector is dealing with. What opportunities does it provide for the global energy transition?”

It is critical that we recognise the difference between the marginal costs of energy supply and the value-add to users of energy plus services. A mindset shift is already evident – a move away from supply or demand to the influence of demand on supply in customer-centric energy systems. A rethinking of supply-side security is also evident in the search for dynamic resilience to cope with disruption-as-normal.

“The World Energy Council has launched the Issues Monitor 2020: Decoding New Signals of Change. Please tell us more about the report?”

As the pace of energy transition accelerated and more factors and actors are involved, leaders need to decode signals of change and distinguish key issues from the noise. Our Annual Energy Issues Monitor survey is now in its 11th year. The interactive online tool can be used to track shifts in leadership attention and contrast perspectives – on a global, regional, sectoral and thematic basis. It provides a reality check – a snapshot of what keeps energy leaders awake at night and their action priorities. The latest 2020 edition uses data collected from 3,000 energy leaders from 104 countries. A new feature this year - we have included a survey of individual customers, detailing their perceptions of their role in the energy transition, based on responses of individual energy users in 50 countries.

“What are your views on emerging Asian Renewable Energy Market like India?”

Using the World Energy Issues Monitor, we can highlight the three critical uncertainties relating to the development of India’s energy market - extreme weather risks, Middle East dynamics, and climate framework.

Regarding renewables, excluding large hydro India’s renewables capacity currently account for over 23% of India’s total. India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) aims at achieving about 40% non-fossil power capacity by 2030, but while the share of renewables in India’s energy mix is set to increase substantially, coal will continue to play a significant role.

Energy storage is a priority action area for the country, given its potential to improve the transport sector’s sustainability, reduce import dependence and enable the integration of greater renewable capacity. Energy efficiency also continues to be an action priority, with growth in areas like Smart Meter programs and national initiatives like the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), which aims to reduce cooling demand in different sectors.

India’s economic development is an increasingly important shaper of the global energy transition. As the country aims to become a US$5 trillion economy in the next five years – it will be challenging to secure sufficient clean, reliable and affordable energy to satisfy demand and the fastest-ever energy consumption growth rate.

“Climate Change has been one of the prominent issues in present times as the world takes its cognizance. In your view, how Energy Innovation can be one the answer to fighting this global concern?”

Better use of all existing technologies and a role for non-technology innovation (institutions and behaviors’) are central to the successful energy transition. It requires more open and integrated systems thinking that looks at the whole energy system and energy as a connector, not only a sector. We need to think of innovation, not as one technology choice versus another, or substituting old technologies for new, but a whole-systems transformation.

“What are your views on the future of the energy sector in the upcoming time?”

The future of humanity depends on managing the global energy transition and moving forward faster and further together. We promote new opportunities for customers, communities, cities, companies, and countries to work successfully together, by sharing knowledge, expertise and promoting better solutions which include the need to address the social energy agenda - behavior change, social impacts, and societal acceptability – in progress innovation opportunities. Only when society is fully engaged will it be possible to achieve the breakthrough performance required to secure the benefits of clean, reliable and affordable energy for all.

Interview 20/03/2020 by News Bureau
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