In a session discussing scenarios for sustainable energy titled “Fueling the Future, participants from leading energy companies and government representatives discussed the challenges that lie ahead.
Springing from a notion that high oil prices and climate change regulations will create business opportunities in green technologies and innovations and that the Middle East will face the prospect of serious power shortages, the forum moderator Nic Frances – Australian social entrepreneur, and CEO of cool nrg International – posed questions about the how the global energy supply map will look.
Frances also discussed the role of the Middle East in the development and production of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as how businesses in the Middle East can turn scarcity and potential environmental problems into a competitive advantage.
Tony Hayward, group chief executive of the UK’s BP, began by sounding the alarm that the world is now facing an unprecedented energy challenge in trying to balance the formula of economic growth and the challenges of climate change.
“By 2030 we will need 50 percent more energy than we need today, he said, adding that the main issues at stake are issues of energy security and climate change.
He highlighted that energy-consuming countries must implement policies that meet diversity of supply and that are energy efficient, while energy supplying nations must make efficient use of energy domestically as well as reduce subsidies in line with economic growth.
The Middle East must diversify its energy portfolio, he added, with a greater focus on alternative sources like wind and solar energy, pointing out that Egypt is committed to a target of 20 percent of its energy coming from alternative sources by 2020. BP is helping to develop wind businesses in the North Coast.
Another measure that was also emphasized by Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard was that the cost of carbon must be embedded in every decision and in the price of every product through the cap and trade method, which should begin regionally and then go global.
Hedegaard said that the whole world must contribute to the setting up of a global framework by 2009 and that businesses must set a price on carbon. The focus must not only be on renewable energy, but also on other ways of adapting to climate change and the dissemination of technology, she added.
“Egypt will be one of the most affected areas in the world by climate change and hence will need to diversify its energy supplies.but even if the world did not have to face the energy challenge, it will have to do something anyway to meet development needs for the 9 billion population who will be occupying the planet in the next 25 years, she said.
Lauded as a regional success story and historic initiative, the UAE’s Masdar project was a central focus of the session and an example to be followed.
Masdar CEO Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber said that Abu Dhabi had decided to stop talking and start acting, making serious strides by transforming oil revenues to natural energy sources.
“We have invested in clean energy technology funds around the world, deployed our resources by applying scale and capital.and we have started building a zero carbon city in the UAE, he said, “where there is zero waste with a goal to transfer and replicate it around the world.
Other measures adopted by the Masdar initiative are carbon capture and storage as well as building the first hydrogen facility in the country.
He pointed to a partnership between the UAE and the US’s MIT to fund research on alternative energy projects.
“With a $15 billion investment by the UAE, the Emirati government has made the largest investment in the world on alternative energy, he said.
In a final note, Hedegaard pointed to the fact that governments must set up political regulations to put a stop to foolish ideas like some adopted in building a number of seven plus star hotels in the region, which abuse energy resources to cool the sand on the beach.
“The US is also a key player and must change its position on [energy policies] prior to China, she said, “it must spread a good example, disseminate knowledge and technology and most importantly stop subsidizing fossil fuels.