The MIT Energy Initiative is MIT’s hub for energy research, education, and outreach. Through these three pillars, MIT is helping to develop the technologies and solutions that will deliver clean, affordable, and plentiful sources of energy. Their mission is to create low- and no-carbon solutions that will efficiently and sustainably meet global energy needs while minimizing the impact on the environment, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating climate change.
I had the opportunity to address this group in November 2016.
Below are some highlights from my opening remarks, still timely and relevant today.
Can innovation bring great change to the oil and gas industry? Does the oil and gas industry even want this change?
Yes, the oil and gas industry is a little conservative, but this is the result of trying to balance the wishes and the requirements of so many stakeholders. Now though the industry is being called to almost rethink itself as the world demands and deserves better access to cleaner, more sustainable energy. Society is driven by energy. We need it more than ever. We are using it more than ever, and therefore we need to be able to produce it from an ever more diverse but complementary range of sources. It is no longer case of explore, produce, export, consume. There needs to be global engagement in ensuring resources are truly sustainable. This is certainly much easier said than done.
For me, the challenges for the energy industry and for the whole world are all about getting the right balance. We need to ensure the world can access sustainable energy, but at the same time we need to keep fighting the climate change. The goal of keeping the increase in global temperature below the 2 degrees Celsius limit is widely accepted now, and after the Paris COP21 also widely subscribe to. When a few weeks ago Ban Ki-Moon spoke of the trilemma of energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability, he referred to a new world of opportunity and investment. I think the word opportunity really jumps out here. But not opportunity for global energy companies to make more profit. Not only that. Rather, it is the opportunity for people to have fair access to energy sources wherever they may be.
For me balance is the key, but here lies another paradox. In the coming decades world the population as you know will grow from the current 7.4 billion to about 9.2 billion with a global energy demand growing by 30%. We can report that there has been a shift in energy consumption. Historical energy consumption was mainly determined by OECD countries. Between the ’70 and the ’90s 18% of the population was consuming more than 55% of the world energy. The rapid growth of the past two decades means that the non-OECD countries now account for around 60% of the global energy demand. So in short, we will need a lot more energy that is much more evenly distributed.
As the UN Secretary alluded, Secretary-General alluded too, we are faced with ensuring that all the world’s population has access to sustainable energy whilst at the same time a cap is kept on emissions.
For this quite simply the current energy paradigm is no longer viable. Some numbers for you on per capita, annual per capita energy consumption. In Europe is 5000 kilowatt hours. Here in the U.S. it is double. Well, in Africa is only about 200 kilowatt hours.
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