Climate in focus as energy industry meets in Korea

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South Korea – the fourth-largest economy in Asia and the world’s second-largest importer of LNG – will be playing host over coming months to two of the world’s most influential energy conferences: the World Energy Congress, which opens later this month in the city of Daegu, and our own Gastech, which will take place next March in Seoul, the capital. High on the agenda of both events will be climate change, which has risen up the political agenda following the publication last month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the first part of its fifth assessment report.

The World Energy Congress, which will run from the 13th to the 17th of October is organised every three years by the World Energy Council (WEC), a global forum with a network of 93 national committees, representing over 3,000 member organisations that include governments, industry and expert institutions.

Struggling to balance energy policies: Commenting on the agenda for this year’s event – which follows on from the one held in Montreal, Canada in 2010 – the WEC’s secretary general, Christoph Frei, said:

“Uncertainty about a future climate framework is among the top issues keeping energy leaders awake at night. Climate destabilisation has been caused in large part by the production and use of energy. The lack of a global climate framework means that [the chances of] meeting our climate targets will become increasingly slim. The energy sector must play an active role in mitigating further emissions and in adapting the energy infrastructure to become resilient against changing water availability or extreme weather events.

“In the same week as the IPCC released its findings, our World Energy Trilemma report and Energy Sustainability Index showed that most countries are still struggling to balance their energy policies. Policy-makers, finance, and industry leaders are not aligned on the nature, value and importance of political and institutional risks and their critical impact on infrastructure investment.

“There is an urgent need for public and private sector leaders to minimise such risks through dialogue and coordinated action, and thereby unleash investments in energy efficiency and affordable forms of low-carbon energy. The discussions between climate policy leaders and more than 50 ministers at the World Energy Congress will help provide greater clarity on the urgent next steps needed to deliver on climate goals.”

Growing energy gap: The World Energy Trilemma report, published by the WEC last month, notes that: “By 2030, the United Nations hopes there will be universal access to modern energy services, a doubling of the share of renewable energy sources in the global energy mix, and a doubling of the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency. But after decades of work to advance sustainable energy solutions, an energy gap continues to grow as energy systems around the world struggle under significant strain.”

It calls for a new sustainable energy paradigm, in which public and private stakeholders come together to develop a new governance for sustainable energy policies. “Policy decisions reached during this historic moment of flux in energy policy-making could tip the balance,” says the report. “They could make it possible for billions of people to experience sustainable energy systems decades into the future, or they could prevent the goal from being reached.”

The report also reveals the results of the WEC’s 2013 Energy Sustainability Index, claimed to be the world’s most comprehensive ranking of countries’ energy policies. It evaluates how well 129 countries balance the three conflicting agendas involved in achieving energy sustainability – what the WEC has called the “energy trilemma”: energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.

The index shows that developed countries with higher shares of energy coming from low- and zero-carbon energy sources supported by well-established energy-efficiency programmes, such as Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden, outperform most countries across all three dimensions of the energy trilemma.

“Nevertheless,” says the report, “it is clear that all countries still struggle to balance all three aspects of the trilemma's currently conflicting agendas. Only five countries in the top 10 have been awarded a ‘AAA’ score, with Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Spain being the only countries that historically demonstrate their ability to manage the trade-offs between the three competing dimensions equally.”

Hwan-eik Cho, chairman of the World Energy Congress 2013 organising committee, said: “This report reminds us that the public and private sectors cannot make the tough choices necessary to secure a sustainable energy future without having a proper dialogue. These discussions, which we will be proud to host in Daegu [this] month, could not be taking place at a more important time.”

Gastech 2014: The Gastech 2014 conference, hosted by the Korea Gas Coporation (KOGAS), will take place from the 24th to the 27th of March next year. With regional demand for gas and LNG growing – mostly due to the pressing need to source cheap, clean and efficient energy – Gastech arrives in north Asia at a time when governments are facing a squeeze in how they develop their national energy policies.

Korea (following Japan’s recent shift in confidence) is stepping back from moves towards developing more nuclear power and pressing ahead with sourcing new supplies of hydrocarbons, by attempting to diversify its security of supply. Gas and LNG already play a major role in fulfilling power generation needs in Korea and Gastech will arrive there in timely fashion early next year.  The full Gastech 2014 programme is now available.

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