“A clean energy transition is clearly underway”: Highlights from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting


As the 2018 World Economic Forum closed, it was clear the majority of businesses and countries remain committed to supporting a clean energy transition that can support faster progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7.

This year’s Annual Meeting took place under the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” with over 70 heads of state from across the world gathering with business leaders, investors, philanthropists and civil society in Davos, Switzerland to discuss key global issues.

Rachel Kyte, CEO and UN Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), took part in several key energy discussions. Watch again via the videos and links below.

The Irreversible Path

In one of the opening strategic sessions of the Forum – Strategic Outlooks: Energy Systems – Kyte and other speakers looked at how industries, institutions and innovation can shape the future of energy systems.

The discussion focused on shaping the transition to alternative energy sources, and the opportunity for partnerships to speed the transition, while also helping meet climate targets.

Hosted by CNBC Africa, the session featured two SEforALL partners, including Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO of Schneider-Electric and Ignacio Sanchez Galan, CEO of Iberdrola. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways and Coal in the Government of India, Pedro Parente, CEO of Petrobras and Bronwyn Nielsen, Editor-at-Large of CNBC Africa also participated.

Minister Goyal said that when governments clearly support clean energy, they encourage much greater innovation and private sector engagement. “India has adopted renewable energy very rapidly. This has effectively given a huge demand push which encourages new technology, encourages competitive pricing,” he said. “Irrespective of its impact on its cost of energy, India has decided to go down the path of clean energy. That path is irreversible as far as India is concerned.”

The one “elephant in the room” was the recent announcement from the U.S. administration to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels. Kyte said the new tariffs will cause “domestic disruption” and reflect an ongoing struggle to internalize global climate concerns into global trade regimes.

“At some point, trade discussions that are happening, climate discussions that are happening and domestic planning around these issues are going to be more coordinated,” she said.

However, given the tumbling costs for solar PVs and other renewables, Kyte does not see significant long-term impact from the tariffs. “There’s no turning back on renewables,” she said. “The most important thing is the cost parity now of renewables in jurisdictions all around the world.”

The Great Energy Transformation

In another discussion later in the week, Kyte joined CEOs from across Europe and China to discuss how leaders can move beyond political hurdles to create a clean, affordable and secure energy future.

Hosted by CNN, The Great Energy Transformation, created a lively debate between CEOs around renewable energy sources and how a future energy system will become increasingly digitalized to make better use of resources. 

Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group, the Swiss based power and automation technology company - and SEforALL partner - also emphasized the underutilized and discussed efficiency opportunities. "We need to do our homework on energy efficiency. We need to do more work on the demand side, we need to use technologies that are available today - and by the way, economically attractive - in much bigger scale than we do," he said.

Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Enel SpA, another SEforALL partner, also joined the discussions with Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of Total and Shu Yinbiao, Chairman, State Grid Corporation of China.

You can watch the session again via this link from February 7th, 2018.

Catch up on all sessions from the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting here.