Solar prices are plunging, China is charging ahead with renewables, and the batteries needed to run electric vehicles are getting cheaper. This dynamic landscape served as a backdrop for a conversation on “The Global Energy Mix” at this past week’s Globe 2014 conference in Vancouver.
The panel consisted of Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute; Ken Lueers, President of ConocoPhillips Canada; Marie-José Nadeau, Chair of the World Energy Council, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Secretary General, Hydro Québec; Jacques Besnainou, Director of General Fusion Inc.; and Al Monaco, President & CEO of Enbridge Inc.
Each panelist offered their take on which changes to the energy sector have been the most profound. Opinions ran the gamut from nuclear plant shutdowns in Japan, the current low price of natural gas, and the promising yet complex nature of renewable energy and clean technology.
Al Monaco framed the energy conversation stating: “the number-one challenge is the dichotomy between the need for energy and everyone wanting to move to a low carbon economy.” Later asserting that this transition will not be feasible until 2050 due to current energy needs and the what he perceives to be renewables’ inherent intermittency.
In response, Jules Kortenhorst pointed to statements by the International Panel on ClimateChange that civilization has about a decade to continue producing as much carbon as it does now—then we must transition to a zero carbon economy. This gives us what he characterized as a “50/50 chance of limiting global warming to two degrees celsius.”
For Kortenhorst, responsible energy development entails an “80 percent write off—of coal, oil and natural gas—from the balance sheets of fossil fuel companies,” to leave those fuels in the ground. He acknowledged that this would be a difficult pill to swallow. Yet, followed with his advocacy for renewables, chopping the intermittency issue down to “one of the most widespread fairytales.”
Kortenhorst’s remarks generated a strong and appreciative response from the crowd.
Smith continued the conversation, asking Nadeau about the role that gender plays in energy politics. Nadeau, the only woman on the World Energy Council for the past 15 years, declared that we are missing opportunities by not including “half of the population and half the skills” in the conversation. She also advocated for the inclusion of young professionals as stakeholders with great ideas to bring to the table.
As the session came to a close, the one clear message emerged: We need to transition to an inclusive, low-carbon economy. The elephant in the room remained: How fast can we move?