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Nick Wayth ,CEO, Energy Institute, presenting from conference lectern Photo: Energy Institute
Nick Wayth CEng FEI FIMechE, CEO, Energy Institute

Photo: Energy Institute

As International Energy Week 2024 approaches, the Energy Institute’s CEO Nick Wayth CEng FEI FIMechE says this coming year will be a big test for the public support and political will needed to accelerate the energy transition, but that progress is achievable.

2024 is set to be a record-breaking year for democracy, with more than 60 nations voting in elections around the world. A staggering four billion people will have their say, in nations small and large.

 

The climate change impacts we’re witnessing now across all continents, and the need to shift our economies on to a sustainable low-carbon footing, are surely a central issue facing many standing for election and those heading to the ballot box.

 

The choices made in the most populous nations voting this year, not least the US and India, will have consequences for the smallest and most vulnerable, like citizens of the low-lying island nation of Palau, also voting this year, whose lives are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges.

 

Because, sadly, global emissions are still heading in the wrong direction.

 

Global leaders and influencers to focus on shift away from fossil fuels at London conference 
As an engineer and CEO of a professional body, evidence really matters to me, which is why I turn routinely to the EI’s Statistical Review of World Energy to understand the world around me.

 

The data is not encouraging. Greenhouse gas emissions from energy have increased by an average of 0.7% each year since 2017.

 

With global energy demand also still on the rise, we’re simply not yet replacing fossil fuels in the global energy mix, with the latest data showing their dominance largely unchanged at almost 82% of total consumption. It’s as if the transition has barely started.

 

This is why we’ve chosen ‘In search of the energy transition’ as the theme of this year’s International Energy Week taking place in London at the end of this month. Among nearly 100 leaders and influencers in our line-up, we’ll be hearing from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chair Professor Jim Skea FEI; UN Special Representative Damilola Ogunbiyi HonFEI; and industry CEOs Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi HonFEI of Masdar, Catherine MacGregor of Engie, Russell Hardy of Vitol and Greg Jackson FEI of Octopus.

 

EI Statistical Review data suggests renewable breakthrough is achievable  
Our discussions will also, I believe, find cause for hope. Having attended COP28 late last year, I witnessed first-hand the progress that can be made through political will and collective action.

 

The pledge in the UAE Consensus to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 for instance is hugely welcome and, I believe, achievable.

 

Going back to my trusty Statistical Review, it’s clear wind and solar power have in fact been the success story in recent energy history. Over the past 10 years, generating capacity from renewables overall grew by an average of around 14% each year.

 

If we work together to continue through to 2030 the same deployment rates we’ve seen in each renewable energy technology, solar and wind in particular, we could take global renewable installed capacity to beyond 10.6 TW. That’s within striking distance of the 11 TW envisaged by the COP28 UAE Consensus.

 

Fig 1: Maintaining the previous 10 years’ average growth rates would put the COP28 global renewable capacity commitment within reach (not a forecast)
Source: EI Statistical Review of World Energy

 

I’m not saying this will be easy – and capacity is of course not the same as generation or consumption – but the investment picture looks promising, with the pipeline of cash flowing into clean energy now far outstripping that going into fossil fuel development.

 

This could finally start to make the energy transition a reality, with clean energy starting to eat into the domination of incumbent, polluting fossil fuels in the global energy mix.

 

Big-name political speakers to join conference in an election year 
Politics and policy are crucial because our efforts to bring about this historic change in direction rely on signals, certainty, incentives and regulation that only governments can provide.

 

With a general election also likely to be held in the UK this year, we’re pleased to be welcoming to our conference speakers from both of the main parties vying for office: Amanda Solloway MP is the Conservative Minister for Energy Affordability and Skills; and Ed Miliband MP is the Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.

 

Despite sustained consensus on the UK’s net zero commitment, questions are hanging over the detail of both parties’ policy platforms. Pinch points are approaching – whether to continue permitting new North Sea oil and gas, how home heating can best be decarbonised, and whether Hinkley Point C will be the UK’s first or last new nuclear endeavour this century.

 

Shifting economies around the world on to a low-carbon footing, while ensuring secure and affordable energy supplies, has to be at the top of the in tray for those seeking office this year. I hope these elections, wherever they take place, can find some useful consensus on these critical issues.

 

The search for the energy transition depends on it.

 

International Energy Week takes place from 27–29 February 2024 at the Intercontinental London Park Lane. More information and tickets (including discounts for EI members) are available at www.ieweek.co.uk