Editor's comment: Transition to sustainable energy

The pace at which a country’s transition to sustainable energy is to be achieved is a political and economic decision to be taken by the respective governments

Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

Transition to sustainable energy is a roadmap for transformation of the global energy industry from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century. Around the world, governments, international bodies, industry associations, NGOs and activists are advocating low-carbon economy and transition to sustainable energy. The primary reason for this campaign is the CO2 produced while burning fossil fuels – coal, petroleum, and natural gas – which is bad for the climate. It is a fact that fossil fuel reserves can also run out. Is transition to sustainable energy making real progress?

With many nations implementing renewable energy targets, renewables like solar and wind have come to the forefront in the transition to sustainable energy. Supported by national policies of many countries and catalysed by innovation, renewable energy technologies have made breakthrough advances and critical cost advantages. Renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency programmes have the potential to achieve 90% of the required carbon reductions. According to experts, renewable energy output is growing faster than anticipated, especially solar and wind, threatening to replace oil, gas and coal as the world's main sources of power.

According to a report released in January 2019 by International Renewable Energy Agency, the rapid growth of renewable energy sources was causing major shifts in international politics. It is worth mentioning here that in some countries, government policies on renewable energy have overcome hurdles and established the demand for renewable energy technologies that has triggered phenomenal growth, while further progressing these technologies and reducing their costs.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia, which has been exporting approximately eight million barrels of oil daily, currently produces virtually no energy from renewable sources. Nevertheless, the kingdom plans to generate 59GW of electricity from solar and wind sources by 2030, according to a statement from Saudi energy minister Khalid A Al-Falih at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. The minister believes that balancing greenhouse gas emissions would take decades, and the kingdom advocates a fair and gradual global energy transition.

The pace at which a country’s transition to sustainable energy is to be achieved is a political and economic decision to be taken by the respective governments. At the same time, climate change is a reality and the greenhouse gas emission by burning fossil fuels is a concern. The connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is established. And, issues like the concerns of the nations imperilled by rising seas and temperatures deserve due attention.

As far as oil producers are concerned, there is nothing to worry even if demand for fossil fuels declines. According to International Energy Agency, petrochemicals are set to account for more than a third of the growth in world oil demand to 2030, and nearly half the growth to 2050. The way ahead is clear – transition to sustainable energy must pick up more momentum, and renewables play the key role in this transition.

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