Energy is key to global megatrends, EI President tells Hong Kong conference

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Population growth, mass urbanisation and climate change can all be positively impacted by innovation in the energy system – this was the message Energy Institute President Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng FEI delivered as he opened the 6th International Conference in Hong Kong. The event was jointly organised in September by the EI Hong Kong branch and the School of Energy & Environment at City University of Hong Kong. 

At the conference, which focused on ‘meeting the challenges of the energy transition through multi-disciplinary collaboration’, Malcolm’s address surveyed the transformative nature of the three global megatrends and the role that energy can play in tackling the problems associated with them.

He emphasised the interconnected nature of the megatrends, saying, ‘The pace of this growth in population and urbanisation creates a huge need for more energy and more transport – which exacerbates the pressing challenges of Energy is key to global megatrends, EI President tells Hong Kong conference climate change and air pollution.’

‘Yet we cannot just press pause,’ he said, ‘as there are still billions of people without meaningful access to energy – and billions more for whom urban transport today means misery, and their health and lives put at risk.’

But his conclusion was positive: ‘I am an optimist – and believe that humankind has the capability to resolve these issues. With technological disruption in our energy and transport systems, we can build a world in which everyone, irrespective of where they live, has access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.’

Drawing on four decades in energy, Malcolm outlined how the megatrends have shaped the world in his lifetime, since he started as a graduate engineer for Shell in Brunei in 1975. And his address focused heavily on the significance of Asia – both in terms of growing energy demand and the staggering pace of technological innovation now being pursued there.

EI Chief Executive Louise Kingham OBE FEI also addressed the conference, exploring how the energy transition is unfolding globally and comparing the leads being taken by China in solar and by the UK in offshore wind.

But she saved the bulk of her comments for skills and workforce issues: ‘The technologies are there, the cost reductions are there, and the political will is getting stronger. It’s our job to ensure the human capital is there. The dynamic skills in established and new technologies alike’.

‘Millions of people work in energy around the world,’ she said, ‘and billions of us depend on them. I’m proud of our members and partners and the role they’re playing in the carbon challenge.’

Malcolm’s speech and slides can be viewed at bit.ly/2NGVLKK

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