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Nations must work together in climate fight

Speakers say countries must be allowed to develop resources but need to join forces to meet targets

Nations should be allowed to embark on their unique route to decarbonisation and choose the most accessible resources but international regulatory certainty and collaboration is required if climate change targets are to be met, according to speakers at a session of the World Energy Congress.

The world is increasingly demanding clean energy but not all such energy sources are available in different parts of the globe, speakers pointed out in the panel on driving change for sustainable energy.

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They argued that in the fight against climate change, countries need to work to develop available resources including gas, renewables, hydro, solar, electrification and also nuclear.

Rachel Kyte, special representative of the UN Secretary General and chief executive of Sustainable Energy for All, an international organisation working to achieve universal energy access, said: “We need energy systems that are decarbonised and the technology and know-how to do this already exists in large part.

“Science tells us we now need to go further and speed up (energy transition)... to achieve the net zero target for emissions by 2050 (set under the Paris Agreement).”

To this end, Kirill Komarov, first deputy director general for corporate development and international business of Russian nuclear player Rosatom, said that while the country is rich in oil, gas and hydro, some regions are difficult to supply with reliable energy sources without nuclear power.

“Today, in the world, the share of nuclear is around 10%; it’s the second largest source of clean energy after hydropower," he said.

“If you are serious about climate change and reducing carbon emissions, we cannot avoid nuclear energy... the biggest advantage of nuclear is that it works 24/7.”

As part of its efforts to supply remote regions of Russia with energy, the company has developed a floating nuclear power plant.

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“This year we are finalising a floating nuclear power plant, which is now in the final stage of commissioning before becoming operational in December," Komarov said.

“It will establish 70 megawatts of capacity... which is a better solution that using diesel, both from an economic point of view and also for the climate.

“Each country should develop its own energy resources and look at the opportunities available (locally)... depending on what types of problems it wants to solve.

“A lot of people still have no stable access to electricity. That’s why, when choosing an energy model, they should look at what is reliable and clean.”

However, nuclear is not an immediate option in the US, where Steve Berberich, chief executive of California Independent System Operator, said the state is focused on developing renewable energy.

“In the US, even economically, nuclear power would not work because it's too expensive. The plants we had are being shut down, which is a policy statement,” he said.

Berberich argued that renewables such as wind and solar, or storage, would cost less than nuclear investments.

“That’s what we need to come to terms with... that renewables are rapidly falling in cost, and combinations of solar and wind, or solar and storage, are getting to the point where they are cheaper than conventional power,” he said.

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However, in other places renewables are less of an option but there are commitments to be met under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions. In the case of Singapore this means learning to use less.

Wong Kim Yin, chief executive of Singapore Power said: “Singapore is a small country, which does not have access to the same solutions as others.

“Almost all the energy consumed in Singapore is fired by natural gas. But we have committed to the Paris Agreement and aim to lower our carbon intensity by 36% from 2005 levels. We are serious about meeting it... but for this, we have to think more about consumption.

“How we can consume less, how to recycle and reuse more. Using centralised cooling, potentially looking at carbon capture or renewable energy credits,” Wong said.

Elsewhere, Martin Brudermuller, chairman of Germany’s chemicals giant BASF argued that actions to tackle climate change can be competitive if the right regulatory framework is in place.

“Looking at the journey of transition, my biggest worry is that... there is not enough incentive to make the transition," he said.

“In Germany we have very high electricity costs, basically incentivising to use less.”

Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), added that while each country has its unique set of circumstance…development has to be in sync and “realistic”.

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“Proven technology is available and, when we started in the United Arab Emirates in 2007, we looked at what was technologically available, what was commercially possible and then we developed our policy and strategy. Nuclear energy was an option then; it is now a reality,” he said.

Kyte added that cooperation between nations, and companies, and sharing “know-how” is essential for the widespread adoption of clean energy and to lower emissions.

“We can’t build a sustainable and inclusive society without taking care of the 1 billion people who do not have access to energy," she said. "The way in which (cleaner energy technology) is deployed quickly to… give countries that are far behind in terms of energy transition, the opportunity to leapfrog will be absolutely fundamental... because while the journey that each country will embark on is different, the destination is the same.

“Those who are not afraid of disruption have enormous opportunity. For those energy companies who are hedging their bets, calling for a carbon price but spending most of their time lobbying against it; calling for clean energy but only investing 5% to 10% in its development, or (looking at) small clean energy acquisitions, these companies will get called out; not just by the consumer but by investors,” she said.

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