The World Energy Congress, an event and a council which represents more than 150 countries, was established in London in 1924.
Previous VIPs to have attended the triennial gathering have included Albert Einstein, and today the event brings energy executives and oil ministers together to debate the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the world’s energy sector.
This September, for the first time in its history, the summit was held in the UAE capital with an estimated 15,000 delegates congregating in Abu Dhabi.
Under the banner of “Energy for Prosperity”, the council addressed the so-called global energy “trilemma”, that of striving to achieve energy equity, ensuring energy security and promoting environmental sustainability.
Delegates also mulled the pressing industry issues of digitalization, technological innovation, decarbonization and sustainability policy reform.
With the world’s population forecast to swell to 9.7 billion by 2050, soaring demand for energy - in particular, clean and sustainable versions of it - has never been more urgent.
The CEO of the WEC Dr. Christoph Frei explained to Inspire why the sourcing and distribution of energy were some of the most critical issues affecting humankind today.
Rebecca: Dr. Christoph, the world is facing an energy “tri-lemma”. Talk to me about where we currently stand in the transition to low carbon economies, and where we are on safe, affordable energy for all?
Dr. Christoph: If you look at the access and affordability side, you have still just below 1 billion people worldwide without access to energy, and that’s a big number.
But the good news is, we have actually brought this down over the past decade from 1.6 billion to below 1 billion, so there is progress on that side.
Now the second area is climate change. We still obviously have not the dynamics on that side to achieve the 2 degree, or even 1.5 degree, Celsius objective. And we don't see plausible scenarios at this stage of how we get there fast.
Security, very briefly, is the third dimension and we have aging infrastructure - or the need to build infrastructure.
Rebecca: Talk to me about peak demand in oil, so pertinent to this part of the world, so what's your forecast?
Dr. Christoph: Well, we have three scenarios. Two out of those three scenarios tell a story about peak demand before the end of the 2030s. Now, the third scenario is geopolitical, the most complicated scenario - and this start a bit later. But the reality is, in all scenarios, we see peak demand in oil becoming a reality soon.
Rebecca: Looking even further down the line, to the post-renewables era if we can call it that, there's interesting research being done about things like microbial energy. What does the future look like? What do you see on the horizon?
Dr. Christoph: Here is the ant. Have you ever been bitten by an ant? It’s painful. What has been painful is actually acid that the ant puts on you. That acid is formic, or HCOOH, it's a hydrogen liquid. With a hydrogen liquid you can actually fuel a fuel cell, you can produce electricity. And it's a liquid that you can easily store.
Rebecca: I will never look at ants in the same way again. Thank you for speaking to me today.
Dr. Christoph: Thank you very much, Rebecca