World Energy Congress – great factoids, some flies and a disappointing debate on energy access.


October 20th, 2013

This is my 4th and final blog from the World Energy Congress. Day 4 finally got round to a discussion of energy access, with the main morning plenary session based on a panel including Kandeh Yumkella, the CEO of the UNSE4ALL secretariat and Vijay Iyer of the World Bank. Both know their subject well but the chairing of the panel unfortunately failed to spark anything really interesting in terms of debate. Having made a bit of a token gesture to the issue the delegates then returned mostly to the sessions discussing the more profitable areas of the energy industry. The audience for the only other panel session on access (the one I was part of) was limited to under 100.

I have enjoyed my time at the Congress and learnt a lot, both about technology trends and about how the industry sees the future. It has confirmed my suspicion however that although the there’s plenty of technical ingenuity avaiable within the energy industry, the sort of leadership and revolutionary thinking that’s going to be needed to halt climate change and ensure universal energy access is not going to come from within the industry itself. Not surprising I guess as long as global policy frameworks don’t provide real commercial incentives to drive that sort of innovation.

On a lighter note, to finish up, here’s some interesting factoids I picked up during the week:

  • Most renewables (without subsidies) are now becoming cost competitive with coal and gas (exceptions are newest / least mature technologies such as solar thermal and wave power).
  • Solar pv costs have dropped 60% since 2010, while wind turbine costs have fallen by 30% since 2008. But solar and wind can be land intensive technologies (i.e. they take up space) and so are influenced heavily by the price of land.
  • Global annul subsidies for renewables amount to $60 billion; global annual subsidies for fossil fuels a colossal $500 billion.
  • Data centres (the things that Google relies on to shift our e-mail traffic round the world and host our internet browsing) now consume 2.5% of global power production!
  • 40% of world’s population lives in water stressed areas

Oh yes! And maggots are set to take over from fish! A guy called Jason Drew, who’s the CEO of a South African company called AgriProtien, made an interesting contribution to a panel on the water / food / energy nexus by talking about his company’s business breeding and selling maggots. He collects 150 tonnes of organic waste a day and feeds flies on it, converting the resultant fly eggs into 30 tonnes of protein in the form of maggots each day! The market is to replace industrial use of fishmeal for animal feed!

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