The three Ss of the energy transition: sustainability, security and suitable price

April 24, 2023

By 2050, the global population is set to reach 10 billion, with global material consumption expected to double. The world’s wealthiest countries will consume ten times as much as the poorest, so low-carbon and resource-efficient solutions are essential to counteract rising carbon emissions and pollution levels. In order to enable economic growth, while meeting Paris Agreement targets, the energy transition may need to proceed at a much more rapid rate than expected.

There is a range of mitigation pathways, many of which currently involve a combination of energy efficiency, widespread electrification, grid modernisation and use of alternative fuels (such as biofuels). There is a spectrum of technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and green hydrogen and ammonia, that will likely require further investment and new financing solutions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on mitigation pathways emphasises the need to scale up clean energy, and change public and industry behaviour surrounding energy use and climate change.

Now more than ever, with European nations reducing their dependence on Russian gas, energy efficiency and conservation are key. The current energy crisis in Europe, and threats to energy security from climate change-driven severe weather events, have further affirmed the need for energy diversification. Geopolitical competitiveness has recently emerged as an energy security concern, with countries needing to explore more long-term shifts to sustainable and long-term energy supplies.

The question that’s mostly being asked surrounding energy transition is, ‘How affordable is it?’ Businesses will likely invest where they see stability, while customers will likely only ever buy energy if it’s affordable, regardless of its sustainability, and so achieving balance is essential. Governments are implementing policies and further investment to promote the adoption of greener energy, and are being forced to invest in an energy transition to meet new and future legislation. News this week announced UK projects contributing to testing innovative future technologies for modernising the national energy system, will benefit from a share of £30 million.

What does this mean for businesses?

For businesses, the energy transition can be daunting and overwhelming. But with new laws and regulations, transitioning to a sustainable future is essential. It’s clear that businesses and industries will likely need to hire and/or train a workforce that is prepared for a low-carbon economy. A smooth transition will only be aided by companies and governments augmenting the current workforce, via reskilling and upskilling programmes. However, the main concern is how businesses can make this transition at a time of economic uncertainty. The immediate payments needed may be too expensive for many businesses, in particular SMEs and, in the short term, energy transition is not an essential expenditure.

It’s important for businesses to realise that, although investing in the energy transition now may seem like a low priority, long-term cost savings and proactive compliance, as well as positive customer responses to sustainable business practices, will likely pay off in the long run with more stable and predictable energy costs. Collectively, we are moving towards a connected energy future, where we’re all in it together, with a common purpose, and a clear role to help create our new energy world.

Author: Carys Reed