3 December 2019

Energy Fast Forward. Empowering the energy transition

Transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future is a shared responsibility. The climate challenge will only be resolved through many parallel sustainability solutions, developed and implemented by industry, business, governments and consumers.

ING brought together key players and experts at Energy Fast Forward, in Brussels on 19 November 2019, to share best practices and to debate sustainable solutions to meet future energy needs. 

ING brought together experts and industry leaders at Energy Fast Forward to discuss the future of the energy transition.

Demand for electricity will only increase

Climate change is the most pressing megatrend today and energy production and use is the greatest contributor to global warming. Yet energy demand is continually rising. In 2018, global energy demand grew by 2.3%, leading to a 1.7% growth in energy-related CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources has a positive impact. Wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other renewable sources can provide power within every sector of the economy. In Belgium, by 2050, half of our electricity will come from wind or solar.

Yet it is not enough to simply shift from one energy source to another. “When we look at energy consumption we often point to cars, for example,” said Dr Damien Ernst, Professor, Université de Liège. “But cars are changing. A tsunami of electric vehicles is coming.”

And not only cars. “Automated vehicles and electric trucks will be a key part of the supply chain in goods transport,” said Joost Uwents, CEO WDP.

The challenge of producing enough electricity – for transport, domestic and industrial use – is not only about providing sufficient energy, but of buffering energy use. “We need to have a grid to carry renewable energy from its source to consumers, where and when it is needed,” said Chris Peeters, CEO Elia Group.

"We need to have a grid to carry renewable energy from its source to consumers, where and when it is needed"

A global, connected energy grid will take time

“A global grid will enable us to use intermittent energy sources – such as solar or wind power – in a balanced way to meet peak demand in different parts of the world at different times,” said Ronnie Belmans, Chairman VREG and CEO EnergyVille. The more countries are connected to the grid, the easier it will be to balance. 

Building this grid will take time,” added Rik Van de Walle, CEO Aspiravi. “Time to build the infrastructure, to get relevant permits and support from public authorities and legislation, and to implement on a wide scale.”

Innovative energy technologies

Meanwhile, there remains an urgent need to develop and implement technologies that can mitigate the impact of increasing energy demand in the short term. “We need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions – starting now,” warned Grégoire Dallemagne, CEO EDF Luminus.

Solutions already in the pipeline include, for example, hydrogen and biomass fuels. Synthetic natural gas generated from renewable energy sources. Potent, long-lasting graphene-based batteries enabling consumers to charge a phone in 5 seconds or a car in 5 minutes. 

Other developments focus on cleaning the air. “To stop climate change we can do two things,” Dr Ernst remarked. “Reduce CO2 emissions or suck CO2 from the atmosphere.” 

Technologies for carbon capture, to prevent the release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere from heavy industry, are becoming central to industrial processes and circular systems. Manfred Van Vlierberghe, CEO ArcelorMittal Belgium, outlined how capture and reuse of CO2 and other waste products in steel production is contributing to ArcelorMittal’s ambition to become climate neutral by 2050. Similarly, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies hold the potential to help prevent further global warming by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. “We must exploit the different technologies for carbon capture if we want to limit the impact of emissions as quickly as possible,” said Raphaël De Winter – CIO Fluxys.

There is still huge potential to reduce energy consumption. “We believe it’s always better to use less energy, even if it is green,” said Marc Van Herreweghe, CEO Mydibel. “You need to think about transformation across the entire process, at every stage and every product. An energy-neutral, circular system starts with being creative.”

"To stop climate change we can do two things. Reduce CO2 emissions or suck CO2 from the atmosphere"

Investing opportunities

Investment is needed to further develop existing and innovative energy solutions. “Right now, investment and effort are not enough and not systemic enough, either at corporate or public level,” said Frederik Hindryckx, CEO VEB.

“Glaciers are melting as we watch,” said Leon Wijnands, Global Head of Sustainability ING. “And all climate risks translate into financials risks. That’s why it’s essential for financial institutions to use their loan portfolio strategically. The world will change based on what we finance.” ING’s ambition is to develop a portfolio of investments in sustainability solutions, covering different sectors, strategically focused on technologies that can have the biggest impact for that sector.

“It’s a gargantuan challenge,” said Michiel de Haan, Global Head of Energy Sector ING. “Ideas and opportunities are plenty. What we need are business models that make sense – both for the climate and as economic investments.”

"Investment and effort are not enough and not systemic enough, either at corporate or public level"

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