Humanising Energy Agenda Emerges From 12th Global Energy Leaders’ Survey

The 2021 edition shows that energy leaders’ perceptions of areas of risk, opportunity, and priorities for action have radically changed.

The World Energy Council has published its annual World Energy Issues Monitor. Now in its 12th year, the report provides a forward-looking assessment of the global energy agenda based on the views of more than 2,500 energy leaders from 108 countries. The 2021 edition shows that energy leaders’ perceptions of areas of risk, opportunity, and priorities for action have radically changed over the last 12 months. 

While economic turbulence stemming from the ongoing reverberations of COVID-19 is the biggest area of uncertainty, with uncertainty around economic trends increasing by a third over the previous year, there is also a growing focus on the social agenda associated with a faster-paced energy transition.

The report details an increased awareness of the societal and human impact of both recovery and the wider energy transition and shows that the issue of energy affordability has rapidly risen up the industry’s priority list, with its impact and uncertainty perceived 20 percent larger than a year ago. Energy affordability affects society across all geographies ranging from city dwellers in developed countries to the rural poor in developing ones.

Simultaneously the report details the emergence of a new generation of digital energy services and energy entrepreneurs. More agile, disruptive technologies have taken advantage of the social upheaval to gain market share at the expense of supply-centric energy solutions. There is a growing focus on customer-centric demand-driven solutions and fast-changing patterns of global and local demand.

Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Secretary-General of the World Energy Council, said “even before the onset of Covid-19, we had already begun to see the rise of the social energy agenda. A consequence of this health crisis is that it has put people at the centre of the conversation on global energy transition and given humanity a clearer voice in an otherwise polarised and fragmented debate.

“This edition of our World Energy Issues Monitor clearly shows a growing awareness among energy industry leaders of the unavoidable truth that we must humanise our energy systems and address new energy justice concerns to be successful.

“While there are still diverse views on recovery and different signals about the impact of recovery plans on the speed and direction of transition, the growing acceptance of a holistic view of energy to enable global human and sustainable development suggests we are moving in the right direction.”

The report findings also indicate that carbon abatement technologies have emerged as another major area of uncertainty, with 40 percent of respondents identifying the issue as highly or very highly uncertain. With large-scale carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) deployment yet to take off, and a wide-ranging spectrum of national and corporate net-zero commitments, there is significant uncertainty about how to strike a balance between decarbonising the global economy while simultaneously ensuring that human needs are met during the recovery.

Regional and country-level differences in both issues of critical uncertainty and action priorities reinforce the need for multiple energy transition pathways rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Dr. Wilkinson, concluded, “the global imperative to secure more energy and climate neutrality is the key to enabling whole societies to recover and flourish. It is vital, that the connections between Planet and People are maintained and whole-energy-system change implications are thought through.

“There is no single ‘race to zero’, there are in fact multiple pathways being progressed with tremendous geographical and technological diversity. This 12th Issues Monitor once again shows that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to addressing energy challenges and progressing clean, affordable, reliable, socially inclusive and just energy transition.”

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