World Energy Congress: The future for sustainable energy – not a dilemma but a trilemma

October 17th, 2013

This is my 3rd blog from the World Energy Congress in Korea. Wednesday’s theme was what the World Energy Council calls the ‘Energy Trilemma’, the need to find the right balance between 3 conflicting goals  energy security (ensuring enough energy to meet today’s and future demands), environmental sustainability (managing carbon emmissions amongst other things) and energy equity (the accessibility and affordability of energy supply across the population). WEC publishes an annual report on this topic which contains, amongst other things, an interesting traffic light index which shows how well individual countries do against each of the 3 elements of the trilemma. Surprisingly the UK is 5th out of 129 countries with green traffic lights on all 3 elements of the trilemma. Developing countries generally do not fare well on the basis of this index and largely populate the bottom half of the table with a lot of red. Peru, ranked 45  does best out of all the countries we work in; Zimbabwe worst, ranked 129 out of 129.

The report, or at least the executive summary version, is worth a quick read as it explores 10 recommended actions to help cope with the trilemma. Actually I found the material in the 3 boxes in the executive summary version the most interesting part as it reflects issues that seem to come up again and again during conversations this week:

  1. The need for international standards to drive improvements in efficiency in consumer electrical products,
  2. The important role pension fund investment has to play in the energy sector and what needs to change to provide the pension funds the security they need to invest at the level required.
  3. The critical importance of R&D into improving large scale storage (very big batteries to you and me) in enabling the renewable energy industry to take a real leap forward, particularly in terms of helping national grids cope with a significantly increased proportion of their generation capacity being intermittent (i.e. dependent on the sun shining or the wind blowing).

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