I ENERGY I

“This Summit proves that international dialogue and collaboration can bring great value. It was an opportunity to inform, support and inspire each other. Now, it is time for all of us to get to work – building back our economies, bringing our citizens back to work, ensuring that 2019 was the definitive peak in emissions and building towards the resilient and sustainable energy systems of the future.”

Dr Fatih Birol
Executive Director
International Energy Agency (IEA)

Ministers from around the world gathered on the 9th of July 2020 to address the world’s energy and climate challenges. These Ministers from dozens of countries took part in the International Energy Agency’s first Clean Energy Transitions Summit, discussing how to bring about a sustainable and resilient recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and achieve a definitive peak in global carbon emissions.

Thursday’s Summit, which was streamed live to a global audience, brought together Ministers from countries accounting for over 80% of the world economy. Participants highlighted the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on their energy systems, underscoring the importance of finding ways to support clean energy transitions despite the current challenges. The event was live streamed in its entirety across our digital channels to a global audience that reached more than 1 million viewers.

Participating Ministers included those from the world’s largest energy users, such as Minister Zhang (China), Secretary Brouillette (United States), Commissioner Simson (European Union), Minister Singh (India), Minister Kajiyama (Japan), Minister Kwarteng (United Kingdom), Minister Albuquerque (Brazil), Minister O’Regan (Canada), Minister Costa (Italy), Minister Mantashe (South Africa), Secretary Nahle (Mexico), Minister Tasrif (Indonesia) and Deputy Prime Minister Ribera (Spain).

Speakers also included United Nations Secretary General Guterres, CEOs from leading and diverse companies, top investors, heads of regional development banks and other key international organisations, past and present COP Presidents, and leaders from civil society.

“This Summit proves that international dialogue and collaboration can bring great value. It was an opportunity to inform, support and inspire each other. Now, it is time for all of us to get to work – building back our economies, bringing our citizens back to work, ensuring that 2019 was the definitive peak in emissions and building towards the resilient and sustainable energy systems of the future,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director who chaired the Summit. “What I see clearly is momentum – momentum behind sustainable recovery and momentum behind clean energy transitions.”

Reaching international energy and climate goals requires a sharp acceleration in clean energy innovation
A key message from last week’s summit was that innovation is vitally important for meeting shared energy and climate goals. Without a major acceleration in clean energy innovation, countries and companies around the world will be unable to fulfil their pledges to bring their carbon emissions down to net-zero in the coming decades.

Part of the solution comes from ensuring growth in public spending on energy R&D, as discussed in our most recent article. But the composition of energy R&D is at least as important as its scale. Unfortunately, public energy R&D spending is not well-aligned with the technology areas that are key priorities for achieving net-zero emissions such as shipping, trucking, aviation and heavy industries like steel, cement and chemicals. Decarbonising these sectors will largely require the development of new technologies that are not currently in commercial use.

The IEA’s recent ETP Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation assesses the ways in which clean energy innovation can be significantly accelerated to achieve net-zero emissions while enhancing energy security in a timeframe compatible with international climate and sustainable energy goals. Notably, the report highlights the importance of making sure crucial clean energy solutions are ready in time for the start of multi-decade investment cycles in key industries.

How the IEA is supporting energy technology innovation
A big part of the challenge is that the innovation process taking a product from the research lab to the mass market can be long, and success is not guaranteed. The process of conceiving new products or processes and guiding them all the way from the lab to the market can take decades. For example, solar PV cells were first demonstrated in the 1950s in the United States but it wasn’t until 2015 that solar PV reached as much as 1% of global electricity generation.

Time is in even shorter supply now. It is important that the research projects that are in early or demonstration stages today get the support they need to make it to market. The IEA’s newly launched initiative “Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?” highlights six research projects under development by participants in the Technology Collaboration Programme by the IEA. You can read more about this initiative in a recent commentary, or explore the projects.

Around 35% of the cumulative CO2 emissions reductions needed to shift to a sustainable path come from technologies currently at the prototype or demonstration phase. A further 40% of the reductions rely on technologies not yet commercially deployed on a mass-market scale. This calls for urgent efforts to accelerate innovation. 
 
The fastest energy-related examples in recent decades include consumer products like LEDs and lithium ion batteries, which took 10-30 years to go from the first prototype to the mass market. These examples must be the benchmarks for building the array of energy technologies to get to net-zero emissions. 

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