Day 1 at WEF

Climate change is the topic on everyone's mind today and the World Economic Forum (WEF) was the platform for dialogue on this phenomenon, its adverse effects on our planet and the need for countries, companies and people around the world to make a change. And, as the event told us, renewable energy plays a big role in this change as a primary enabler of economic growth.

As a speaker of renewable energy, I got the opportunity to share my thoughts on numerous topics, the first of which was on Meeting the Climate Challenge: Opportunities for Mining and Metals. The session was true evidence to the fact that post COP21, the world is gearing for change as we aim at bequeathing a greener planet to our children.It gave me a chance to interact with some brilliant minds including business leaders, thought leaders and experts on climate change.

The mining and metals industry is facing a difficult time because of its intrinsic nature. Now, industry leaders need to be proactive and define a new role for mining and metals in a low-carbon future. They are moving away from routine practices and exploring options to accelerate decarbonisation and reduce climate related risks, especially those caused by carbon emission. The metals and mining industry is energy intensive - this means on-site generation or grid dependency, both of which are highly dependent on fossil fuels. So emissions can only be reduced by bringing about energy efficiency in operations and logistics through methods such as heat recovery units and cogeneration, or shifting to on-site and off-site renewable energy generation and use.A more long-standing option, I thought, would be for mining and metal industry players, especially cash-rich ones, to diversify their investments into renewable energy and become responsible companies of a greener future. An industry that is so heavily energy-dependent, metals and mining cannot shy away for long from the latest in energy – renewables.

Another very interesting session that put the global renewable energy sector into clear perspective was the Transformation of Energy. The session included economists, leaders from the oil and gas industry as well as solar energy specialists. The primary aim of the session was to understand the transformation of energy from traditional sources to renewable ones, and the future of renewables in a world post COP21 commitments.

The session had no definitive outcome, but it addressed many concerns including the need for energy efficiency, energy stability and the life of renewable energy technology. I would like to take a moment to summarize some of the most interesting and visionary observations made by the experts at the session:
  • Renewable energy has stepped into the limelight after COP21, followed closely by the need for energy efficiency.
  • Renewable energy needs continued focus if it is to become the solution we will need in the future.
  • Falling oil prices have had barely an effect on renewables because people recognize that renewable energy is the way to go when it comes to sustainable solutions for the future.
  • Renewables are desirable over the long term, but people are still concerned about its lifetime. This can be addressed through examples of renewable investors around the world whose investments have provided unaffected generation and results for over two decades - renewable technology has been developed for long term suitability.
  • Coal and fossil fuel sources will continue to complement renewable sources until the time that renewable energy becomes completely self-reliant and mainstream. We need to reduce traditional energy generation sources by over 40% if we want to meet the goal of zero emission by 2030 - governments need to reduce the support they provide to coal and other energy generation sources for this to happen.
  • Debates such as decentralised vs. centralised generation and storage need to be removed from the renewable sector altogether – we need all the energy we can get. That means, everything will have a demand and a place.
  • Digitization of systems needs heavy focus – it holds the future of efficiency as it enables analysis of generation and sources from individual resources that make up hybrid solutions. If hybrids are the way to go, digitization is a must for maximum efficiency.
  • Renewable energy has moved beyond its romantic era and is now mainstream - today, 50% of global energy is generated from renewables. The transformation of energy has already begun.
The two sessions brought a lot of information into the light but more importantly, it proved that renewables are the future of energy. The transformation of energy has begun – it may be at a pace lower than expected, but in spite of the many challenges it needs to overcome such as lower prices of other energy sources and investment hesitation to some extent, it is persevering. Renewable energy is here not just to stay, but to support industrialisation globally; and emerging economies are leading this transformation.