Using state-of-art video technology, 12 energy experts met simultaneously in London, Washington DC and São Paulo to discuss the technological, behavioral and policy solutions to help the world achieve long-term energy goals.
The event was called Global Energy Conversation and it attracted the participation of 1,300 people worldwide. It was promoted by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit.
Unanimity amongst debaters was that energy efficiency, especially amongst OECD countries, is “one of the most important levers for reducing carbon emissions in the short term”. They also stressed the importance of smart grids, carbon capture and storage for containing industrial emissions.
Paulo Puterman, director of Inovah Energy said that developing countries should grow with renewable energy. He added that “putting IT into the grid … is the direction we should be going in”.
Participants of the event took part of a live poll. 65% of respondents said they would support policies designed to combat climate change, even if it meant a 5% reduction in their real income. However, an earlier poll by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that only 26% of the general public would be supportive of such policies.
Alex Laskey, president of Opower cautioned that while there is a high level of interest among the general public in doing the right thing, there is very low actual engagement: “90% of people say saving energy is important to them, but no one wakes up thinking about it. It is not economic signals that drive people to change their behaviour. The average person spends just 6 minutes a year thinking about energy issues, so the question is how do we get them to think about it and make changes in their everyday lives?”
Governments and policy makers have a big role to play in fixing the energy problem, but in another live poll taken during the event, 56% of respondents felt that democracy currently stands in the way of the world making headway on climate change. “All too often policies are driven by political timescales,” said Joan MacNaughton, World Energy Council. “A cultural shift is driven by policy or law – the real concern is that it will take too long. We need to get these changes through quickly and governments need to focus on the engagement issue to accelerate the point at which we decide we cannot carry on the way we are.”
Speakers agreed that it has to start with policy and regulation first and if this is put in place then technologies and solutions will be implemented because everyone’s interests are aligned. “Business needs to engage with Governments,” said Laskey. “Government is at its best when it rewards outcomes not input.”