The ongoing MENA Climate Week in the Saudi capital provides us with a pivotal platform to review lessons learned through the multiple crises the world has faced over the past few years.
The COVID-19 pandemic, international conflicts, the resulting volatility in energy prices coupled with inflation, and the looming threats of a recession in the West have all proven that the energy governance framework, which seeks to provide everyone with equal and equitable access to energy as part of their economic growth model, can be significantly improved.
The past few years have forced the world to expand the energy trilemma of security, sustainability, and affordability to include “energy access” and “energy reality.”
The economic, social, and environmental pressures to manage the energy trilemma’s conflicting demands, which were usually an acute problem for the developing world, are also being felt in the developed world.
The ongoing conflict in Europe is exacerbating the unequal access to resources after COVID-19. Short-term policies seeking to politicize energy access have caused enormous volatility in energy markets, deepening energy poverty and pushing millions back into financial poverty. The conflict has stressed financial markets, which has increased costs for energy transition projects, especially for least developed economies, and jeopardized the overall progress regarding climate ambitions.
The growing investments in renewables worldwide, coupled with increasing energy demand from developing nations and pressure on fossil fuel emissions, present a scenario where sustainable sources are integrated into underdeveloped and underfunded energy systems that currently do not have adequate balancing and integrating capacities and capabilities.
Renewables create a paradox: they disrupt energy markets with the promise of cheap and sustainable power. However, the system costs of building redundancy to address their intermittency are still predominantly based on fossil fuels.
Storage, while increasing in capacity, still has a long way to go before being able to replace the support that fossil fuels are providing to balance current power systems at scale.
Thus, increasing the integration of renewable energy sources in the power sector could impose increasingly high costs to maintain the resiliency and stability of the system.
Ensuring affordability, availability, and energy sustainability should be pursued while considering all energy sources.
Energy transition must continue to be a cumulative global effort, and access to clean energy and sustainable technologies should be viewed simultaneously — not as a parochial battleground for creating potentially lucrative markets of the future.
Promising technologies like carbon capture, usage and storage, bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, and clean energy solutions such as hydrogen and ammonia should be critical parts of the energy diversification portfolios and pursued rigorously and holistically. The transition to a cleaner and sustainable future cannot be at the cost of exacerbating energy poverty and accessibility.
The MENA Climate Week, followed by the COP28 in Dubai, represents an opportunity for global leaders to sincerely commit to sharing the benefits of technology development and innovations equally. It is to be done while ensuring political ideologies do not shackle global supply chains and critical minerals essential for the energy transition. This commitment demands tangible actions, setting the stage for a future where energy access is universal, affordable, and environmentally responsible.
This article appeared on Arab News