Davos 2020 : Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials – a decade of acceleration and delivery

The 50th annual meeting in the mountain town Davos in Switzerland held by the World Economic Forum has been put under unprecedented pressure. Climate urgency, the need for better business and fairer economies as well as technology for good, all with growing challenges, will be discussed by nearly 3000 world leaders, chief executives, policymakers from 117 countries.

 

Here are the top 5 points to remember on the talk Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials on Tuesday 21 January 2020.

 

The panel’s speakers :
Lord Greg Barker of Battle  – Chairman of EN+Group
Iain Conn – CEO of Centrica
Rachel Kyte – Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University
Vicki Hollub – President and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corporation
Ignacio Sánchez Galán – Chairman and CEO of Iberdrola

 

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1. Transparency on carbon content

Lord Greg Barker of Battle, chairman of EN+Group, the leading vertically integrated aluminium and power producer, insists on the transparency on carbon content in metals being produced. Only then the full-pricing can be determined and players in the metallurgical industry will have incentives to innovate to find net-zero emission or even negative emission solutions. Likewise, investors will also be incentivised to invest on the right side of the movement.

 

EN+ Group has invested in technologies for net-zero emission aluminium for several years, yet they also need partners and investors to accelerate this new type of metal.

 

2. Role of investors

Investors can seem to be very inconsistent – says Iain Conn – CEO of Centrica – an international energy services and solutions company. They can advocate renewable energy and technologies but can seek short-term profits and acceleration by investing in old technologies.

 

China, for example, depends largely on its coal plants to fuel its growing economy. Internationally, on the other hand, they are set to become a renewable energy superpower, being one of the top investors in the last 10 years in solar panels, wind turbines, electrical vehicles etc.

 

3. Acknowledgement of what is possible

Vicki Hollub –  President and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corporation from the United States – states the fact that the petroleum and energy sector can be often attacked for their activities, especially in the context of climate emergency. It is also important to acknowledge the huge progress made in this industry on a large scale.

 

Since 2016, Occidental has been aiming at producing carbon-negative barrels of oil, by investing in technologies and solutions that allow locking 99% of the injected carbon dioxide underground, or “sourcing carbon dioxide from industrial facilities including ethanol and steel plants”.

 

4. Political and industrial coalition

Rachel Kyte – Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, CEO of World Bank’s Sustainable Energy for All programme, agrees on what it means to be a successful energy company in the 21st century: to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, either by storing, capturing or not producing any.

 

But business should not be alone in this – reflecting by the fact that there is no policymaker being in the panel today. A coalition across the energy sector, between the regulators and industries, and across continents is what needed to drive changes. For example, aggressive measures and scalable actions to invest in emission storage and renewable energy must be made in Sub-saharan Africa to help accelerate a more sustainable and cleaner path, instead of going exactly on the same one as that of the developed countries in the 20th century (a response to the news in which the UK will continue to fund Africa’s oil and gas projects).

 

5. The decade of 2020: what’s in store?

Ignacio Sánchez Galán – Chairman and CEO of Iberdrola – a Spanish multinational electric utility company, asks for the real commitment for the age he called “the age of acceleration” – acceleration of challenges and therefore, responding actions. Because even if the industry of energy and materials have made huge progress, investors are starting to see the bright line between the wrong and the right side of future, technologies are getting more on-point, it does not seem to be enough (as also stated in the speech of Greta Thunberg at Davos).

 

The panel concludes by stating the urgency for delivery, as Roberto Bocca – Head of Energy Industries of the World Economic Forum says: “There is no more room for talking like in the last decade. For the decade of 2020, we need to accelerate our solutions and deliver the promises we made to ensure we end up in the right place”.

 

 

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As we are stepping into a new decade with more growing challenges than ever, the old models and mindset will not suffice. For business leaders, this post-modern era requires them to reinvent themselves: from decision-markers to conceptors. They won’t help leaders to identify the factors that will change their activities in 5 years, 10 years, not to mention 20 years.

 

Leaders need a new set of methods and tools to go beyond the range of existing solutions in order to design new ones. That is the only way they can welcome the next socio-economic shifts, and also impose their own visionary and impactful responses to the progress of humanity.

 

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