The energy problem to solve in this lifetime
To end the year, Inside Energy asked some of the brightest minds in the energy sector to share their personal highlights of 2017 and the one energy problem they would like to see solved in their lifetimes. This is what they said.
Maria van der Hoeven
Former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency
2017: The year carbon capture really evolved
"This year's developments in the field of carbon capture have been fascinating. Along with existing technologies, we're seeing the evolution of techniques that are not only taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air, but turning it from a waste product into a commodity. We're using it to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses and even to add the fizz into fizzy drinks. The advancements I've seen in 2017 are not just important for the future of energy, but also for the future of our planet."
In my lifetime: Let's innovate so everyone has access to energy
"We have a global population of 7 billion, yet over 1 billion people still do not have access to energy. By 2040 the population will have increased even further and we need to find a way to ensure that everyone around the world has access to clean, efficient, sustainable forms of energy. This is only possible if we develop cleaner traditional and emerging energy sources. We have to look for opportunities that don't yet exist, create new technologies, and find innovative solutions to lift people across the globe out of energy poverty."
Chief Executive of the Energy Institute, a professional body for the energy industry
2017: The year the UK saw three major energy firsts
"2017 saw three symbolic firsts here in the UK. One weekend in March, there was so much distributed solar photovoltaic power available that the amount of additional electricity required from the rest of the grid was, for the first time ever, lower during the day than it was at night. In April, we saw our first day without any coal power since the 1880s. In September, offshore wind projects were awarded contracts at record-low prices, challenging new gas-fired power projects on cost competitiveness."
In my lifetime: Let's solve global energy inequality
"I hope the global challenge of energy inequality, or the lack of access to energy, is solved. According to the United Nations, 3 billion people lack access to affordable, modern energy services for cooking or heating. That is 40% of the world's population. Energy is the bedrock of economic and social development. It is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes – access to energy for all is essential."
Founder and Managing Director of Green Tomato Cars, London’s first taxi service using petrol-electric hybrid cars
2017: The year Tesla's Model 3 became real
"The release of the Tesla Model 3 is my truly inspiring moment of 2017. It's also a huge step forward in terms of the mass adoption of zero-emissions vehicles. Companies like Tesla have given national governments the confidence to make bold objectives around completely removing emitting vehicles from the road. This could now be possible within the next 10 or 20 years: it's a very exciting sign of progress."
In my lifetime: Let's see a stable supply of renewables
"Looking out of my office window at some of London's busiest roads reminds me of the clean air implications of standard diesel and petrol engines. While I would love to see a world in which zero-emissions vehicles are the only form of transport, this dream is not attainable until we can ensure a stable supply of renewable fuels. A cleaner energy world is not going to be made up of one or even two solutions. It's going to be a combination of wind, solar, hydrogen, electric and hundreds of other ideas that haven't occurred yet, all working together."
Kerry Anne Shanks
Head of Asia-Pacific Gas and LNG Research for Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy
2017: The year China took a major step towards cleaner energy
"This year has seen an amazing increase in China's natural gas use. Over the last year, a surge in the number of trucks delivering liquefied natural gas by road has driven a wave of industries switching from coal to this cleaner-burning energy source. Hundreds of thousands of homes in China have had their old boilers replaced with modern gas systems. The government sees gas as an important part of the transition to cleaner energy so there's a lot more reform to come."
In my lifetime: Let's improve air quality across Asia
"I frequently travel around Asia and it's not always a pleasant experience – some cities are very smoggy. At the same time, you can clearly see that many people living in this region still lack access to electricity: they're using coal or wood fires for cooking and heating. The challenge we face here is not just electrifying Asia but doing it in a way that allows people to breathe cleaner air. Improving access to electricity generated from cleaner sources is going to play a key part of improving air quality in these regions."
Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission, an advisory group of industry, finance and environmental leaders
2017: The year we moved closer to addressing global warming
"This was the year it became apparent that, thanks to technological innovations in renewable energy, India might be able to move beyond coal-based electricity and still meet dramatically-increased electricity demand. I realised that this could be achieved cost-effectively and in a way that would enable economic growth. It was this that made me most optimistic about finding a solution to global warming."
In my lifetime: Let's find a carbon neutral way to fly
"I want aeroplanes to fly without producing CO2 emissions. I don't think we can tell people not to fly and air travel demand is bound to increase. This is one of the hardest challengers we face. But we've already found low-carbon solutions for electricity and car travel. In my lifetime, I'd like to see this extended to aviation. This would make a huge difference to the future of the planet."
Senior Economist, Shell
2017: The year the USA threatened to withdraw from Paris
"The US President's plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement last February was a shock. In that instant you had one of the world's largest carbon emitters potentially walking away from a historic agreement designed to address climate change. What happened next, however, renewed my sense of positivity. No other world leader followed suit. No other country fell out of the agreement. And many of the remaining nations came out with strong statements of support for the agreement.”
In my lifetime: Let's ensure that everyone has access to energy
"Growing up in India, I saw first-hand how access to energy can help people out of poverty. Energy allows children to study at night and succeed in school. However, it’s not enough just to ensure that everyone has access to energy. We need to promote the global use of cleaner burning energy. I would like to see every global citizen have access to cleaner and sustainable forms of energy."
2017: The year I used Shell biofuels to survive
"As part of a recent expedition to the South Pole, I used biofuels made from woodchip and sugar cane waste to melt ice into drinking water. These innovations are hugely important for me personally and for all of us. Imagine being able to produce fuel from waste, especially in countries like India. Instead of burning their waste and causing major pollution, farmers could sell it and help to produce fuel. That could make a big difference."
In my lifetime: Let's harness more power from the sun
"In the decades to come I hope that many more things will be powered by the sun. We need to try to harness this incredible resource as much as possible. Ten years ago, I was testing one of the world's first solar-paneled sails. This year I used Nasa-designed solar-powered ice melters on my journey to the South Pole. I've spent my life showing people the benefits of using renewable energy. Our world won't be solar-powered by tomorrow, but I hope to see it continue to rise as a major energy supply in my lifetime."
Technology Manager, Shell
2017: The year Shell's floating LNG facility reached Australia
"My key energy moment of 2017 occurred in July when Prelude, Shell's floating liquefied natural gas facility, safely arrived in Australian waters after a 27-day tow from South Korea. Not only was this a major milestone for Shell, but it's also a great innovation for the LNG industry. Floating liquefied natural gas facilities allow us to access previously stranded gas fields."
In my lifetime: Let's provide cleaner burning energy for off-the-grid communities
"There are an estimated 3 billion people around the world who still cook and heat their homes using stoves or open fires. Many of these communities are isolated from electricity distribution networks. We need to find cost effective solutions that provide these communities with cleaner burning methods than stoves and open fires and manage the intermittent nature of renewables such as wind and solar."
Nazhat Shameem Khan
Chief Negotiator for COP23, a United Nations climate change conference in Germany
2017: The year people were involved in climate
"This year was about the involvement of more people in climate-related matters. COP23 saw the gender action plan, which aims to increase the number of female climate policy decision-makers. It saw local communities and the indigenous people's platform become operational and the unprecedented involvement of children in formal parts of the programmes. These were defining moments."
In my lifetime: Let's see partnerships thrive
"I hope that future climate negotiations really respond to what people want and involve the general public more. Climate policy has stopped being just about government action. It is now about partnerships. It is the unprecedented level of participation from the public and private sector that has created the momentum for the implementation of climate policy."
Interviews by Judith Durkin, Daniel Fineren, Marcus George, Soh Chin Ong and Andrew Wilson