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Leaders with a Clean Energy Revolution at the heart of their strategies

07 September 2011
Leaders with a Clean Energy Revolution at the heart of their strategies

LONDON: On Tuesday September 6 2011, international state government leaders and influential business guests met in London to share ideas on the policies and mechanisms required for effective acceleration of a 'clean energy revolution'.

Speakers who gathered within the grand book-lined walls of the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London’s Mayfair for Leading a Clean Energy Revolution, included Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, Minister Bernabe Unda, Minister for Industry, Innovation, Commerce and Tourism, Government of Basque Country, Minister Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Government of Quebec, and Tim O’Loughlin, Commissioner for Renewable Energy, Government of South Australia.

Joan MacNaughton, Senior Vice President, Power & Environment Policies, Alstom and Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance also joined the panel, for a discussion moderated by Vivienne Cox, Chairman of the Board, Climate Change Capital.

Opening the event, Mark Kenber outlined the issues at the heart of the dialogue: “We face increasingly rapid and immense transformations, all within the context of climate change. We must decrease global emissions by two thirds of current levels by 2050 – that same 40 year span where we will be increasing the world population by a third, doubling the urban infrastructure and more than doubling the number of middle class consumers on the planet. Everything we make, do and consume will need to be achieved with 10% of current carbon intensity. We will not achieve this through incremental change, but only by a massive scaling up of clean technologies and energy efficiency - a Clean Revolution. But a Clean Revolution is not about sacrificing growth, prosperity and our future. A Clean Revolution offers a low carbon and prosperous future for us all. And as we will hear from our speakers today, a Clean Revolution is all ready underway all over the world.”

Mark Kenber introduced the distinguished guests: “Revolution requires extreme change. Our speakers today have shown precisely the kind of leadership needed to drive that change. Going way beyond their national country emissions targets and using innovative approaches with public-private partnerships, they are the early leaders and the pioneers of the Clean Revolution.”

Tim O’Loughlin illustrated the long term transformational change of South Australia: “Nine years ago we didn’t have a wind turbine. Today wind currently contributes to 21.3% of our total electricity supply. […] We represent 8% of the population of Australia, but we have 54% of the country’s generated wind power. […] If we didn’t have a wind industry, wholesale electricity prices would be 15% higher than they are today.” This growth has come from foreseeing change, as Mr. O’Loughlin stated: “We were successful in anticipating that this demand would come along.” He added that public-private partnerships are a critical and “natural alliance”, with which: “the sky is the limit.”

Minister Pierre Arcand painted a similar picture of leadership in Quebec, which boasts the lowest greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions per capita in North America as well as 35,000 green jobs, a number he says is: “growing at a very fast rate”. He spoke of the crucial Clean Energy Revolution as: “an opportunity to develop a green, sustainable and prosperous economy that will bring jobs and wealth with the lowest possible carbon emissions."

Mr. Arcand said that the emerging market for electric vehicles (EVs) is essential to Quebec’s growth: "Our [EV] action plan lays the foundation for nothing less than a revolution in transportation. […]What we want by 2020, is 25% of new cars on the road to be electric, or rechargeable hybrids” - a figure equating to roughly 300,000 low carbon vehicles. He also stated his aim of 95% electric public transportation by 2030. $250 million dollars will fund this EV development, of which is expected to generate around another half a billion dollars in private investment. He concluded: “In this way, we are building tomorrow’s green economy.” 

Minister Bernabe Unda, spoke of Basque Country’s industries being a major target for emissions reduction, as they are responsible for two thirds of the region's electricity consumption, and said that the Government aims to: “consume less energy, increase efficiency”. Stating that the future lies in renewable energy through technologies such as smart grids, EVs and marine energy, Mr. Unda said that the region's clean energy development will also trigger increased competitiveness, which will accelerate Basque Country’s leading position in the new energy market.

During the subsequent business panel, Vivienne Cox asked where we are in this Clean Energy Revolution, and Michael Liebreich was quick to respond with: “We have reached the end of the runway and are taking off.”  He added that we have seen an enormous surge of growth, with clean technologies now central to our energy infrastructure, stating: “The shift to clean energy is inevitable.” He framed his confidence with clear figures, including the fact that solar prices have already dropped 70% since 2008, and that in 10 years LED light bulbs will see a 90% reduction, solar will drop 50% and wind costs will be cut 25%. 

From a business perspective, Joan McNaughton agreed with Liebriech’s ‘inevitability’ claims, but said: “Government has to get better at the narrative of how it is inevitable […] to enable companies to take the difficult investment decisions.” She also pointed out that governments are now: “giving the right signals for boards to take action, knowing that they won’t be undermined”. 

Steering the conversation around the interest in public-private collaboration, the panel also touched on carbon tax, competitiveness, financial regulation and risks, and city-based technology pilots.

Hearing successful stories straight from innovative state government and business leaders, highlighted the critical role of transformational leadership at the heart of a Clean Energy Revolution – one that can cut carbon emissions, create jobs and secure economic growth for future generations. 

See photographs of the business panel and evening cocktail reception here.

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