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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Can International Energy Week provide a bridge between polarised energy debates?


6 min read

Head and shoulders photo of John MacArthur Photo: Shell
John MacArthur FREng CEng FEI, Chair of the International Energy Week Board

Photo: Shell

In advance of the London-based conference in two weeks’ time, John MacArthur FREng CEng FEI, Chair of the International Energy Week Board, previews this year’s varied programme.

The International Energy Week conference, as well as the International Energy Awards, returns to London from 27–29 February, bringing together the most important voices in the energy transition today. This energy dialogue has never been better timed.


Humanity faces mounting challenges. 2024 is a leap year, and a leap in progress is sorely needed. The COP28 climate conference in December heard that promised policies will still exceed even 2°C limits. At the same time, tragic conflicts such as those in Europe and the Middle East make our world – and energy markets – increasingly volatile. All this, while we must deliver secure and affordable energy to help struggling economies and to alleviate inflated costs of living.


This year at International Energy Week we will go in search of an inspiring energy transition, share global insights, engage with thought leaders, discover energy innovations and use our trusted platform for transformational dialogue to navigate these uncertain times.


Trusted energy conversations

International Energy Week draws on the Energy Institute’s heritage of trusted energy conversations stretching back more than 100 years. We’ll explore strategies and skills to decarbonise our energy systems and commercial opportunities to transition to low-carbon energy alternatives. Embracing an inventive, orderly, and a just transition away from the fossil fuels that we depend upon for energy security and affordability, and which stubbornly still account for 82% of global energy use.


The challenge of rapidly moving the world from today’s energy mix to net zero is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This requires input from all of us: all the world, all of society and all of industry, working in harmony. We need everyone to deploy their capability and resources, including oil and gas companies. International Energy Week convenes key stakeholders in the energy transition for constructive, respectful debate. We host an inclusive platform, open to all.


We mean this. There are some who protest that the energy transition should happen overnight. Last year, environmental activists staged protests outside the event; but this year they are also invited inside, as Grahame Buss, spokesperson of Just Stop Oil, will join the thoughtful debate, alongside other NGOs.


Authoritative evidence

The conference will also have the benefit of the most authoritative evidence available. On the first morning, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chair, Professor Jim Skea FEI, shares the startling facts about climate change. We also benefit from a panel discussing the Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy, with its valuable energy and emissions trends.


Living around the world helping to supply energy throughout my career, often in developing countries, I now appreciate how fortunate I am to live back in the UK with its secure energy supply and a stable electricity grid. Storms do occasionally cause power cuts, increasingly with higher frequency of extreme weather events. And when that happens, we get out the candles and experience only for a fleeting time the lack of access to regular power common in so many other lives around the world. There are no easy answers to affordable energy access and security, and this requires understanding varying opinions. These views will be represented as we bring together power utilities, oil and gas suppliers, technology providers, industrial energy users and renewable energy companies across the rich conference programme.


And speaking of renewables, alongside other low-carbon energy options, those need to be tailored to different countries and geographies, with varying levels of government and financial support. The UAE Consensus at COP28 called for tripling global renewable power capacity and doubling down on energy efficiency by 2030. Our dilemma is that this may still not be fast enough for expected world population growth. We need all zero emissions energy, including renewables and nuclear, to be able to transition away from fossil fuels, and there will still be a market for massive carbon removals and storage, either natural or technological.


There has been an 82% reduction in cost of electricity from grid-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) since 2010. But not every region of the world may be able to scale renewables quickly enough to phase out coal and avoid temperature overshoot. This could mean a role for natural gas as a transition fuel, coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS). We will discuss natural gas at International Energy Week too.


Nevertheless, we must ramp up renewable energy electrification as the main destination fuel wherever we can, as fast as we can, to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. This year’s International Energy Week will have more electricity and renewables discussions than ever before. We will talk about how to enable exponential electrification, such as unlocking permits, batteries and grid connections.


Real-world solutions

Another critical factor in today’s energy markets is green finance and carbon markets, the subject of International Energy Week’s first afternoon session. Examples will include concessional finance to fund low-carbon projects in emerging and developing economies. We need real-world solutions.


As we move away from fossil fuels, we can create a just transition which provides clean, affordable energy for all. We can also convert what I call future ‘carbon casualty’ jobs into green jobs by using CCS on existing hard-to-abate industry clusters. Equally, this process will create exciting new green energy jobs for retraining energy professionals, members of the Energy Institute. It’s also about valuing the diversity of the workforce and making sure every employee is recognised for their talent and experience. Some EI Young Professionals have been invited to moderate panels this year too. It’s about creating value for society and the next generation, and this will be a theme on day two, featuring among others former EI Chief Executive Louise Kingham CBE FEI.


International Energy Week aims to offer our audience a balanced, objective collection of topical issues and thoughtful discussion covering the energy transition to net zero. We even have a session on artificial intelligence (AI) with Google Deep Mind! The programme is curated by a terrific board of volunteers from across the energy sector. Thanks to their hard work, the Energy Institute team, the gracious volunteering of our roster of world class speakers, and our supporting sponsors, we create a unique conference platform. 


There is a tendency in many modern conversations towards the polar extremes. My wish is for International Energy Week to offer something different: a common ground where we learn and build our clean energy future together. I hope to see you there.


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