DUBAI: Energy security and the green transition must go hand in hand if the world is to tackle the climate crisis, experts attending a panel discussion at the World Government Summit in Dubai said on Monday.
As Western governments react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing a series of tough sanctions on Moscow’s financial infrastructure and vast hydrocarbon economy, European nations have been left searching for sources. alternative energy.
At the same time, governments urgently need short-term solutions to meet national energy demands until renewables like wind and solar can be developed. The result is a dual crisis of energy security and creeping climate catastrophe.
During a summit session titled “Meeting the Challenge of 2022: Will Energy Security Derail the Energy Transition?” Organized as part of the Atlantic Council’s World Energy Forum, the panel discussed ways in which countries can shift their energy priorities to meet these challenges.
Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Emirates National Investment, who was on Monday’s panel, said African energy producers could offer European nations the energy security solutions they need as the continent weanes itself off oil and Russian gases.
“We don’t have our own energy, so we never thought about a strategy on energy security,” Descalzi said. “When you don’t have to think about something like that, (how) can you cope with the future? Africa is a good opportunity because they need development, we need gas, and that’s a good combination.
Indeed, buying from a region of the world that urgently needs investment to support its development has obvious social value, but arguably does little to foster the transition away from fossil fuels.
However, Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, argues that energy security and energy transition need not be as mutually exclusive as they are so often portrayed.
In fact, there can be no energy transition without energy security and accessibility, he told the panel. In this context, too much emphasis has been placed on insufficient supply and investment in oil and gas to try to solve the climate crisis, while demand continues to soar.
“It’s as ridiculous as trying to solve the obesity problem by defunding sugar and wheat farmers, and making no changes to diets or policies about how food is made. consumed,” Jafar said. “Climate change is fundamentally a consumer issue.”
Depriving the developing world’s oil and gas industry of investment could actually hamper the long-term transition to renewables, Jafar said, and Western governments’ “platitudes and prescriptions” doled out to Africa and the rest of the world. Asia are doing little to meet their real needs.
Indeed, almost a billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity – a figure that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, some 3 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions, forcing them to rely on dangerous and polluting heat sources.
As an indication of the inequality around responsibility for carbon emissions, around 80% of the world’s population has yet to fly.
“It’s like saying, ‘You don’t need a stable power grid like we have, and you can get away with a battery-powered solar panel,’” Jafar said.
In search of cheaper energy solutions, many developing countries have been forced to look for even more damaging fuel sources.
“What’s happened is there’s been more coal burning, so you have more emissions and higher energy prices,” Jafar said. “So this issue of underinvestment has been key and it’s not enough that we need more oil and gas in the short term.”
The oil and gas industry is a long-term business, requiring hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in order to make production cleaner, Jafar said. He also thinks that these hydrocarbon products will be used differently in the future.
“Gas is a fundamental enabler of renewables as it underpins them and is the pathway to future technologies like hydrogen, and oil is used for solar panels and wind turbines,” he said.
“This message of the continued need for oil and gas has not been understood, particularly in Western markets.”
Indeed, hydrogen is widely presented as the missing link in the green energy transition. Speaking at Monday’s panel, Anna Shpitsberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation at the US State Department, described hydrogen as a breakthrough technology that addresses a variety of different sources through its ability to underpin nuclear, gas and renewable energies.
“That’s why we’re investing billions of dollars in hydrogen research and development,” she said.
“It can’t always be about setting up new infrastructure. We often talk about access to energy and the fact that sometimes countries need to build infrastructure, but they also have underutilized infrastructure, and we don’t want them to have debt when they don’t even use what they have.
The path to decarbonization must be realistic, efficient and complemented by the development of new technologies to help reduce the cost of renewable energy, she added.
Meanwhile, the world’s largest oil and gas producers have pledged to maintain stability in the energy market. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have all reserved spare capacity worth an estimated $500 billion, according to Fahad Al-Ajlan, president of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Saudi Arabia.
“They had the long view of saying that if there is a demand disruption or a hiccup in the global oil supply, then there is a way to offset that,” Al-Ajlan told the panel. . “But if we can talk about energy security, it’s not new.”
Al-Ajlan pointed to the recent missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s hydrocarbon infrastructure by Yemen’s Houthis and the need to pay special attention to energy security. All the while, reducing carbon emissions must remain a top priority.
“We won’t meet our climate targets tomorrow or in the next two years, but our policy appears to be,” he said. “We should be very focused on emissions and how to reduce them.”