Nonlinear: that’s one way to describe the path of the global energy system. It has been defined by permanent interactions that comply with Newton’s laws of motion: i. the acceleration of change is directly proportional to the vector sum of forces exerted on the system and inversely proportional to its size; ii. systems tend to maintain the status quo or state of inertia; and iii. the action-reaction principle: for every action, there is always an opposite and equal reaction.
The current transition is full of turning points, contrasts and subtle nuances. In terms of climate change, the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement (COP 21) is the surprise with the most impact. Paradoxically, corporate America, including the major oil companies, is against this move. Also surprising was China’s defense of global free trade (Davos 2017) and the shift to a low-carbon society, thus closing ranks with the European Union.
It is also paradoxical that Germany is achieving its goals in terms of the market penetration of renewables, but has been unable to meet its targets for reducing carbon emissions. This is because the early gradual shutdown of its nuclear facilities is forcing the Germans to build up considerable coal power. The oddly antagonistic splits of RWE and E.ON in 2016 also deserve attention. Are these phenomena the signs of deep-seated changes in business models in preparation for the Utility of the Future? While Germany is shutting down its nuclear power plants, the United Kingdom is now implementing its own ambitious nuclear program that will enable it to gradually close down the 15 plants currently in operation and replace them with 14 GW of new nuclear generating capacity by 2035.
In terms of the energy transition, electricity systems are currently making progress toward decarbonization based on viable road maps using competitive, non-emitting technologies. This naturally forces us to address other emissions not related to electricity production and to face the real challenge of the decarbonization of transport and the reduction of our society’s energy intensity. This should be done without reducing current performance levels and by taking advantage of the enormous potential of energy efficiency, which could represent the leading source of primary energy supply compared to the present situation.
Other relevant matters requiring analysis include digitalization, which, along with disruptive technologies, is altering the status quo; regulation as an element that establishes order and drives the changes that are placing the consumer at the center of the system; geopolitics, with a special look at lithium and cobalt; and the prices and taxation of energy and coal, which are the most accurate indicators of the relevant matters in this situation.
In summary, these points provide a glimpse of part of the current energy system, which is going through profound changes driven by forces of renewal and transition. The following points will be discussed at our 15th Energy Industry Meeting:
- Climate change
- Prices and taxation of energy and coal
The 15th Energy Industry Meeting, which features the theme Game Changers in the Global Energy System and is organized in partnership with Deloitte, seeks to reflect on how best to tackle the transformation of the energy system. To achieve this, relevant figures from the business world, experts and academics, along with energy policy makers and regulators at the Spanish, European and global level, will provide a coherent, well-ordered analysis of the topics that are shaping the global energy transition.