virtual Expert Workshop 2021:
Hard realities of a low carbon energy system

Watch the virtual Expert Workshop online now


The workshop took place on 25 May 2021 and discussed the recent huge impetus for achieving net zero coupled with the fallout from Covid means for all players in the energy system.

The recent past has been characterized by pledges from countries and companies that they will achieve net zero ambitions, and the Covid-19 pandemic and upcoming COP 26 summit in Glasgow are reasons to put these under the microscope. The roadmap to achieving this is beset by contradictions; oil companies want to reduce their hydrocarbon activities whilst maintaining the investor returns of the past, whilst reducing emissions for end users; end users will have to invest in new and radically different means of heating, transport and energy supply; and countries will emerge from the pandemic with huge debts whilst the energy transition will necessitate significant future investment.

Achieving a low carbon energy system will require actors to face up to some hard realities which the 2021 expert workshop explored.

The discussion focused on the following key questions:

  • Given the enormous level of investment required to achieve net zero – likely more than doubling recent historical averages of around $1.6 trn per annum – and the proportion of this that will fall within developing economies - how will this realistically be achieved (and what will be the role of companies, the finance sector and government in this in advanced economies)?

  • If hydrogen is going to play a major part in this, it will need to ramp up in scale at least 100 fold. How do we create a market and financing model for this and who will do it? What is the role of central government in achieving this?

  • If IOC’s will wish to create a central role in delivering low carbon/net zero energy in future years, how will they evolve their business model away from high carbon fuels to reflect this? What if they get their timing wrong?

  • Given that COP 26 will undoubtedly ramp up the pressure in terms of policy outcomes, what will be the role of governments in electrification of the energy system and efficiency of sectors – how can governments intervene effectively? How can they make policies stick in the longer term (i.e. across changes of government) and prevent short term u-turns (e.g. on CCS, feed in tariffs and home energy efficiency improvements in the UK)? How will taxation of end use fuels need to change?