The urgency to transition

The ongoing energy challenge is affected by actions taken today. ISO provides science-based solutions for a more sustainable, inclusive and affordable energy matrix.

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The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6-18 November 2022. ISO and its members join ranks with world change makers to showcase how International Standards help transform climate commitments into action. Our coverage of COP27 provides an overview and greater insights of ISO’s work in this area, from in-depth features to thought-provoking think pieces. 

The world will not be able to cope with climate change without a global energy transition. A series of systemic shocks over the past three years has had an acute impact on national and regional energy systems. The resulting challenges have driven energy prices sky-high, severely affecting households and businesses alike.

As the world prepares for the looming crisis, the demand for energy continues to increase across the world, amid a raft of challenges facing the global energy system. The demand for natural gas, in particular, has grown significantly in the last 20 years as countries look to move away from coal and oil. But the events of the 2020s have highlighted a troubling dependence on natural gas at a time when the acceleration of the energy transition has taken on renewed significance.

We need more power

Energy consumption around the world increased by 42 % from 2000 to 2019, including a surge of 45.8 % in the consumption of natural gas. Gas is a popular source of energy because it is the cleanest of the fossil fuels (though it still releases greenhouse gases when burnt), it is easy to store and gas-fired plants can be switched on or off comparatively quickly in response to seasonal or short-term demands. But the global impacts of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with protracted uncertainty as a result of conflict in 2022 have created a perfect storm of high demand, volatile supplies and soaring prices.

The global energy crisis has added new urgency to the need for us to accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources. Many countries are trying to shield consumers from higher prices by reducing dependence on natural gas and turning to cleaner sources of energy. And while 2021 was a record year for renewable capacity additions – which increased by 6 % – the question still remains: Will renewable sources be able to keep up with the surging demand for energy?

We need more speed

At current rates of progress, and without robust action, the world is still unlikely to deliver on the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable and clean energy by 2030. A lack of available infrastructure driven by logistical impediments caused by the instability of the global economy in recent years is one major barrier to achieving SDG 7.

It is too soon to say what the impact of short-term volatility will be on the outlook for renewables. The rising price of gas has improved the competitiveness of renewable energy sources – despite the increase in costs for new solar and wind installations – but the actual contribution of renewables to the energy mix will heavily depend on the speed and quality of new policy implementations.

The rising price of gas has improved the competitiveness of renewable energy sources.

We need more structure 

The demand for renewable energy is increasing. Thankfully, there is clear progress in the area illustrated by the rapid diversification of energy sources such as wind, solar, water, nuclear fusion, geothermal and bioenergy. International Standards have an important role to play by ensuring that rapid investment in, and development of, these sources is conducted in a way that maximizes efficiencies and safeguards the health of people and the planet. The world needs to get this right first-time round to avert further instability and boost energy security for the future. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s report Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022, urgent action is needed by both private and public sectors to ensure a resilient energy transition that addresses the challenges to environmental sustainability, energy security and energy justice and affordability. It calls for governments, companies and consumers to intensify efforts to navigate the energy transition, including the use of standards: “Significant emission reductions could be achieved today on many industrial sites, provided companies are equipped with adequate standards, processes and tools to manage emissions.”  

The energy transition will be cheaper than continuing with the status quo and greater, more ambitious investment in renewable sources is the key to boosting global energy security. A successful transition will need science-based strategies to ensure targets can be met. ISO’s role is an important one in this area. From convening power to gathering stakeholders, ISO has the ability to sketch the big picture for an energy transition on a global scale. 

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