Laszlo Varro, Chief Economist, International Energy Agency

Laszlo Varro

Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency

In 2016: The electric car market was shaken up

"This was the year electric cars transformed into a mainstream technology. I feel as though we are finally on the brink of a first wave of viable electric cars that can compete in the mass market. For me this is proof that the energy transition has moved well beyond think tanks, models and reports. Today it’s one of the driving forces of the global economy."

In 2017: I’d like to see smarter energy policy

"My biggest hope for 2017 is that all countries of the world continue to promote and implement smart and innovative energy policy. This is the only way to tackle our common energy and environmental challenges. Achieving climate goals under the Paris agreement will require governments and companies to incorporate the latest thinking in their respective strategies."

Sally Benson - Professor of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University and former joint Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Sally Benson

Professor of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University and former joint Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In 2016: Solar power started to come of age

"Solar photovoltaics (PV), which convert sunlight into electricity, used to seem too expensive to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change. Now costs are falling. This year California produced more than 10 gigawatts of electricity from solar PV, and there are times of the day when solar PV generates more than 30% of California’s electricity."

In 2017: We need a step change in CCS

"Carbon capture and storage is hugely important in the fight against global warming. We have had some important milestones in 2016, such as Shell's Quest project in Alberta, Canada, which captured and stored one million tonnes of CO2 emissions in its first year. But in 2017 I hope that CCS emerges with more support from industry, government, academia, and the public."

Julie Ferland

Julie Ferland

Shell TechWorks General Manager and former US Navy Lieutenant Commander

In 2016: I discovered a new sense of scale

"Before I joined Shell I remember an engineer beckoning me over to inspect an autonomous underwater vehicle, excitedly claiming it was “enormous”. Compared to the ships I worked on in the US Navy, this device was actually quite tiny.  What we develop at Shell TechWorks, from drilling tools to automated maintenance tools, is getting smaller and more powerful."  

In 2017: I hope to fuel my child’s curiosity

"My six-year-old daughter is becoming more inquisitive about what I do for a living. This allows me to explain principles of science such as the electricity that turns on the lights in our house, or the petrol powering the car which drives her to school. In 2017 I want to continue to fuel her curiosity about how the world works and encourage her to see that in terms of the impact she can make on the world, the sky is the limit."

Robin Mills

Robin Mills

Author of “The Myth of the Oil Crisis” and Chief Executive of Qamar Energy

In 2016: Iran returned to the oil markets

"For me, 2016 was about the return of Iran, a major oil and gas producer, to global markets after years of isolation by sanctions. This has huge implications, both for crude oil and gas, and for whether the country can achieve its ambition of becoming a major gas exporter. On trips to Iran this year, I’ve seen how economic conditions have improved, but many Iranians are yet to feel the benefits from the lifting of sanctions."

In 2017: May renewable energy soar

"We have seen recent progress in solar power in the United Arab Emirates with record-breaking bids for new projects. In 2017, I’m keen to see this remarkable trend continue. The UAE has progressive plans for renewable energy and there’s little obstacle to solar power becoming a significant part of the regional energy mix over time. Also needed are energy efficiency measures and the removal of subsidies."

Irene Lye

Lye Lin Heng

Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore

In 2016: I was encouraged by solar power

"Singapore’s focus on promoting solar energy, especially the use of solar panels on rooftops, has been a huge highlight. There were some who doubted that it was a viable energy option in Singapore for various reasons. But technology has continued to advance and we now have 50 local and international companies, working in the research and development of solar power, as well as its manufacturing, project development and financing."

In 2017: May the UN climate agreement continue

"I hope that the UN Paris agreement continues to proceed apace and that the USA will not pull out. The ratification process would not make this easy anyway as withdrawal would technically take four years. But the new US administration could decline to participate in the negotiations, taking on the role of mere observers. After the speed of diplomatic advances this year, that would be a great shame."

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

Head of Scenarios at Shell

In 2016: I felt our audience changing

"Last November I was with government and NGOs at an energy event in Berlin. It is a notoriously tough crowd: audience and speakers do not always listen to what the other has to say. This year it seemed different. Shell was discussed as part of the solution rather than the problem. Our opinion on how to achieve lower emissions was considered – and people now recognise government and other sectors need to change things to help us collectively move forward together."

In 2017: Let’s fuse the traditional and the new

"This won’t necessarily hit the newspapers but I hope behind the scenes policy makers are able to build on the momentum from the Paris agreement in 2017 and work together on tackling climate change. On a more tangible basis, I’d like to see more examples of traditional and emerging energy sources being used alongside one other, like combined natural gas and solar power grids. Integrating these two can bring cities both resilient power supplies and economic benefits."

Simon Flowers

Simon Flowers

Chief Analyst at global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie

In 2016: The energy transition stamped its mark

"Tesla’s first mass-market electric car, the Model 3, has lit a “green” touch paper compelling the car industry to rethink the future of the internal combustion engine. Tesla plans to build 500,000 all-electric vehicles in 2018. The scale of its ambition is impressive. For me it is symptomatic of wider energy market disruption, which is also highlighted by the Paris agreement and Saudi Aramco’s plans to list part of its company on the stock-exchange for the first time in 2018."

In 2017: Let’s see a resurgence of large projects

"With the recent rise in the oil price, I’d like to see the industry regain confidence. The number of large projects that were given the green light by oil and gas companies averaged around 40 a year between 2007 and 2013, according to our research. By 2015, it had dropped to just eight. Next year, I’d like to see a clear breakthrough on costs that make new conventional and deep water projects commercially viable and competitive again."

Lori Ryerkerk

Lori Ryerkerk

Executive Vice President of Shell Global Manufacturing

In 2016: The driving experience changed

"Driverless cars hit the roads this year. For me, this is a defining moment for the industry, personal transportation and the driving experience. There are many unanswered questions still, such as who will refill these driverless vehicles? If they prove popular with consumers, will more car journeys increase emissions? Or will ride-sharing options and programmed fleets cut them? We don’t yet know how driverless cars will change our lives – but I am certain they will."

In 2017: Let’s see stable prices return

"We are an industry that responds well to stability. When oil prices shift dramatically, like in the last decade, we invest less in drilling and exploration. Long term that could mean less available crude oil, and customers may feel the knock-on effect as products become more expensive. Stability on the other hand means affordable pricing for customers, and that gives them choice in the marketplace."

Adnan Z. Amin

Adnan Z. Amin

Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency

In 2016: Renewables started becoming competitive

"What stood out for me was renewable power generation becoming competitive with, or cheaper than, conventional power generation on the grid. The UAE is accessing solar power generation at under three cents a kilowatt hour. It’s the same in Chile. Morocco is accessing on shore wind at three cents a kilowatt hour. These cost declines are probably the biggest consequential development for us over the last year."

In 2017: May electric vehicles grow

"I’d like to see a massive growth in electric mobility powered by renewable power. Our sense is that there will be major investment and growth in electric vehicles. We’re hearing manufacturers talking about fast-charging systems across Europe. And it’s important because this is essentially going to be the fast way of decarbonising at the rate we need to achieve for a climate-safe future by 2050."

Lawson Petri

Lawson Petrie

Former Shell engineer who worked on the Brent field in the North Sea

In 2016: I held my nerve on share prices

"My biggest moment was the drop in Shell’s share price earlier in 2016 due to world uncertainty in oil production and political tensions. As a shareholder, that’s clearly the last thing I wanted. However, I reasoned that the company had seen ups and downs in the past, and so I decided to sit tight and hold on to my investments. That turned out to be the right decision as the share price has bounced back."

In 2017: We should look again at shale gas

"Shale gas represents a fantastic opportunity to revitalise the UK economy. But there are many concerns that I would like to see the energy companies come together and address. In particular, I would like to see them implement standard procedures, one set of rules for all, in simple language. I’d also like to see the experts who worked on oil and gas production in the UK’s North Sea get involved in the shale gas industry and share their expertise."

Interviews by Tom Baird, Kunal Dutta, Marcus George, Sarah Kempe, Soh Chin Ong and Joanna Wrighton.

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