Mission Possible: KU’s Senior VP for Research and Development Discusses the Global Energy Prize as a Driver for Sustainable Energy for All at World Energy Congress 2019

As a side event to the World Energy Congress 2019 held in Abu Dhabi, the Global Energy Prize Association held a panel discussion session including members of the Association’s International Award Committee, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and previous laureates of the Prize to consider sustainable energy for all.

Sustainability continues to be the main concept around which development is built; however, the challenge is far from being solved and there needs to be more access to affordable and reliable energy for all populations, and far more progress needs to be made in clean energy production. As energy is the world’s largest industrial sector—contributing to 70 percent of the world GDP—access to energy could contribute to reducing inequality and poverty worldwide.

The United Nations agrees, as access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is the seventh of the 17 sustainable development goals. Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today, per the UN, and be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to energy for all is essential.

Increasingly, solution providers are realizing sustainability is about more than where that energy comes from; it’s about meeting the basic needs of all people and extending to them the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. But with some seven billion people on the planet today, and another three billion expected by 2050, society cannot hope to give them a comfortable standard of living without heavy dependence on energy and technology. It seems pertinent, then, that the discussion centered around whether sustainable development were myth or reality.

“That depends on us,” acknowledged Dr. Steve Griffiths, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at KU. “Sustainable development is becoming a reality but we are certainly not there yet. Particularly in the energy sector, we are not yet on track to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement or the many goals of the Sustainable Development agenda. Further scientific efforts balanced with appropriate policy measures will be needed.”

Dr. Griffiths is a member of the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee, which comprises 20 members from 14 countries, all of whom are representatives of the most reputable scientific and academic organizations as well as governmental and public figures from Russia and abroad.

The Global Energy Prize is an international award which recognizes outstanding scientific innovations and solutions in global energy research and its concurrent environmental challenges. Awarded annually in Russia, each laureate receives a commemorative medal and a monetary prize for outstanding scientific developments in the field of energy that help solve the most acute and difficult energy problems. The Prize was established in 2002 and has been awarded to the world’s leading scientists, whose discoveries and technological innovations meet global energy challenges in traditional energy, non-traditional energy and energy application.

Dr. Griffiths was keen to highlight the UAE’s contributions to the move towards sustainable clean energy for all, pointing out that several of the largest and most cost-effective demonstrations of renewable energy in the world can be found in Abu Dhabi.

Renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower are limitless and, most importantly, cheap, thanks to many recent improvements in technology. When the Noor Abu Dhabi solar power plant was switched on in June 2019, it became the cheapest operational solar plant in the world, and the third time within two years that the UAE has broken the record for cheap solar.

“Developments in sustainable energy production are happening not just because they should, but because there’s an economic reason,” explained Dr. Griffiths.

Innovative partnerships and continuously improving technologies will help to achieve a sustainable future, with the Global Energy Prize one such example driving sustainable energy for all.

Jade Sterling
News and Feature Writer
18 September 2019