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Does humanity have what it takes to address the dual challenge?

Do we have what it takes?

It’s a question I had the great privilege of discussing last week with fellow CEOs at the 24th World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi.

It’s a question that has never been more relevant, at a time when the largest climate protests in history are taking place around the world, and public concern over our carbon intensive lives is growing at what feels like an exponential rate.

It’s a question that keeps me up at night. Words are powerful, movements are powerful, but are we the pioneers our beautiful world needs?

It’s easy to say that we must transition to a low carbon economy, but as fellow WEC24 attendees discussed in difficult conversations earlier this month, it’s quite another to make this happen without compromising energy supply for a global population that will soon reach 10 billion people.

How do we address this Dual Challenge?

Being part of the global innovation ecosystem is a very humbling experience. And I believe wholeheartedly that we do have the pioneers the world needs. But what we don’t have quite yet is the widespread pioneering spirit that empowered our ancestors to overcome the challenges of their time.

We have an energy world that’s divided between the enlightened and the traditional. The traditional are still operating in silos and are struggling to implement new business models that are vehicles for change.

The enlightened put extreme engineering front and center of board level conversations. Because after all is said and done, it’s deploying this kind of engineering at scale that will help us arrive at a sustainable energy future.

The extreme engineering that’s changing the world as we know it, isn’t coming from the establishment – it’s coming from research labs and the trenches of the deep tech world. And from new companies like Tesla or reinvented companies like Ørsted or EDP. 

At the Congress I put to my fellow energy leaders that it’s time to challenge our legacy. Time for us all to become pioneers. Because despite the hype surrounding technology deployment, we’re still not there yet.

Technology development to support the transition is not happening fast enough to meet global climate objectives. Many of the technologies that are crucial to achieving a low carbon economy, are still not at the commercial or planetary scale that’s needed to accelerate the energy transition.

And they won’t get there without support from both the public and private sector. 

As a member of the global innovation ecosystem, I want to help ambitious leaders leapfrog old technology and I want to help align industry incentives.

I’d like to see active stewardship from the largest players, to connect emerging technologies with the problems they seek to solve, at the scale needed to achieve net zero carbon.

I’d like to see a framework from governments to make sure that this happens – a framework that is then applied with the urgency and seriousness that is required. 

The energy sector has a truly pioneering history, from cracking deep water drilling back in the 80s, to Norway’s realization of an entire CCS value chain. 

We all need to work together, to challenge the establishment and to apply this pioneering spirit to the grand energy transition.

It’s time for us all to start being the pioneers our planet needs to overcome the dual challenge. 

Then maybe, we can sleep well at night.