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Event Review: IE Week 2024

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Picture of Anamika Talwaria

Anamika Talwaria

Editor & Head of Content for Tank Storage Magazine & StocExpo and Chair of Women in Tanks.

Bringing together energy professionals from all over the world, International Energy Week is the place where oil and gas industry leaders are joined by senior officials and influencers from the wider energy world, as well as government representatives, environmental NGOs, and scientists and academics, to assess the technologies, business models, and skills needed for a net zero future.

timelapse photography of red london double decker bus on road between buildingsThis year’s event focused on delivering a just energy transition. The first mission was to define this – a just transition would not only deliver green energy, but would be considerate of the implications this could have regarding job losses, energy bills and the world as a whole, rather than just a single country or block.

Keynote speaker, Ed Miliband, the UK’s Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, delivered a talk about how a potential incoming Labour government would work with the energy sector to achieve this just transition. ‘The just transition needs government to plan it and deliver it, working with business,’ Miliband says. ‘I am from a coal mining constituency; I know the dangers of an unjust transition.’

Miliband cited the importance of proper management and investment into achieving a just transition. He highlights the need to invest in the communities working in this sector: ‘The lesson for me of IRA (the Inflation Reduction Act) is that something like 85% of the investment is taking place in areas that are below average income in the United States. And so we need to learn from that approach. As a union leader put it to me: the truth about workers in these areas is that they are the people who can decarbonise that country – in hydrogen, in carbon capture and storage, in offshore wind. But it’s not happening at the moment. There is no plan for this transition under the current government.’

 

Accelerating The Energy Transition

As well as focusing on the energy transition and what this needs to be successful, the IE Week conference looked at the energy trilemma and how the transition can be achieved while taking into account energy security and affordability.

Catherine MacGregor, CEO at Engie, explained this in her discussion. ‘In my mind, the energy transition is an opportunity to enhance energy sovereignty – to start – and then hopefully also industrial sovereignty. This doesn’t mean that everything happens within your region, but that you have a better level on each side. I believe that each region will find enough wind, solar and in some cases nuclear capabilities for those countries who have made the choice to actually provide an energy system that is low-carbon, affordable and gives you that level of sovereignty. I don’t think that self-sufficiency is realistic, and there will continue to be layers of exchanges, but the energy transition is an opportunity.’

She clarifies that it’s not a one-size-fits- all solution as the energy make-up of each region will be different depending on the resources that are available. For example, the UK and France have fantastic potential for offshore wind, whereas Spain has better potential for solar. ‘That’s the particularity of this energy transition it has a very high degree of local content – local specificity,’ MacGregor says.

 

How do we Balance the Triple Crisis of Supply, Price, and Climate?

One particularly interesting – and well- attended – conference session was the panel discussion between Grahame Buss, Just Stop Oil, David Whitehouse, CEO, OEUK and Kevin Birn, Global Head, Centre of Emissions Excellence, S&P Global – moderated by the Green Alliance’s chair, Laura Sandys CBE FEI. This constructive debate widened the scope of discussion from just energy infrastructure and the transition, to encompass the workforce, voters across countries, balancing demand against supply. One key takeaway is that the energy transition needs better policy and permitting from governments in order to be successful – but another focuses on the human cost, bringing people along willingly, rather than forcing people and companies to adapt to outlandish policies.

 

Save the Date

IE Week is keen to continue the discussion on the energy transition at next year’s event – in a brand new venue. The 2025 event will take place at London’s QEII centre on 25-27 February. Watch this space for updates.

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