World Energy Congress starts on a pessimistic note


The official statement released to mark the opening yesterday of the World Energy Congress in South Korea will make uncomfortable reading for renewables proponents.

Although there was a brief call for R&D spending on energy storage technologies, the communique tried to rubbish as ‘myths’ the notion of peak oil and the idea future global energy demand will be met by renewables as well as claiming global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be impossible without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

Yesterday saw the opening of the World Energy Council’s (WEC) triennial World Energy Congress in Daegu with more than 6,000 delegates from 113 countries attending and including more than 50 government ministers along with 272 expert speakers from 72 countries.

To launch the event, which runs until Thursday, the Congress’ opening statement said new fossil fuel dicoveries and extraction technologies meant fossil fuel reserves have more than quadrupled since the last Congress, in 2010, meaning ‘there is no shortage in sight.’

And in a press release issued by the Congress today, Khalid Al-Falih, president and CEO of fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco and a keynote speaker, said: "Since the last WEC in Montreal, the energy industry has witnessed momentous changes, and today it is healthier, more dynamic and more confident than ever. Thanks to innovation and technological breakthroughs, we are in an era of abundance for oil and gas."

‘Renewables will not plug the gap’

In terms of renewables, the WEC said its most optimistic, voter-driven scenario would see renewable energy supply only 5% more million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) by 2050 while its consumer-driven scenario would see 55% more fossil fuels (MTOE) in use despite a rise in the share of renewables to 20-30% across the various scenarios.

Another ‘myth’, according to the WEC, is that GHG reduction targets are achievable, with the organization stating its research predicts emissions will almost double in the most optimistic scenario and could quadruple by 2050, adding current business models cannot cope with the increased share of renewable generation and decentralised systems.

In terms of answers, the WEC has called for R&D spending on energy storage technology but placed more emphasis on the development of CCS to hit GHG targets as well as repeating the oft-heard industry-wide call for ‘balanced, predictable and stable’ policy and institutional frameworks.

The principal solution proposed by the WEC – which notes the world’s energy ‘center of gravity’ has shifted outside countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to nations like China, India, Brazil and Russia – is a wholesale change in focus from energy supply issues to demand management, with the associated incentives, technological advances and policy support such a paradigm shift would entail.