2015 witnessed the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change where 194 countries agreed on targets to limit global warming. All eyes remain on progress in environmental sustainability and whether political leaders can meet their pledges.
80 percent of the young people surveyed by One Young World in 2016 said they wanted greater government legislation to restrict the use of fossil fuels, but only 30 percent believe clean energy is affordable and accessible. The biggest challenges, it seems, are yet to come.
Delegates and Counsellors addressed the obstacles to meeting these goals to tackle climate change and the best practices around the world in the energy industry which can overcome the barriers to providing affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
A Battery Led Green-Revolution
Before introducing Marek Kubik of the United Kingdom, Iron Maiden singer and creative entrepreneur, Bruce Dickinson, outlined the progress made in providing clean, reliable and affordable energy, in an energetic keynote speech.
“Finally we are getting to the point of removing fossil-fuelled cars from our roads”, said the rock star. “In years ahead you won’t even be able to give oil away.”
But he compared the issue with renewable energy to that of a child’s toy: that ‘batteries are not included’. “We can oversupply grids with power, the only problem is the storage in the interim” - we can produce clean energy but are incapable of storing it.”
Kubik, Market Director of AES Energy Storage, explained why he holds faith in an energy storage revolution to solve this issue. Technological advancements in energy storage such as lithium ion batteries, he said, can overcome the “critical piece which is holding back the clean energy revolution”.
“Renewable energy generation is often variable”, Kubik explained, but “the ability to store energy anywhere on the grid fundamentally changes the way the system operates.”
The obstacle is that markets and rules are too often “designed around conventional technologies or solutions” which are limiting innovation in the sector.
Young People Are The Environment’s Best Hope
The delegates speakers later addressed the ability of young people to overcome such obstacles and decide the future of our environment by innovating energy storage and consumption.
Tere Gonzalez, founder of Liter of Light’s Mexico chapter, emphasized that sustainable energy solutions are “not always titanic pieces of infrastructure.” Liter of Light repurposes plastic bottles, which would otherwise become garbage, to create affordable lamps, “significantly improving a family’s life and creating a positive impact in the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels.”
Karan Jerath of the United States, who has patented a novel subsea wellhead capping device for oil spills, said “If we energize today’s youth, the potential for research and development will rise at an exponential rate and we will open up the industry to new solutions.”
Chad’s David Naibei, who is raising awareness of climate change with young people, echoed this sentiment. “I strongly believe”, stated Naibei, “that our hopes of a positive future, one where we are part of the clean energy revolution, rests with the education of our young people...Environmental education is the most powerful weapon to save our planet.”
Kenyan delegate Chebet Lesan works in one of the world's busiest cities, Nairobi. In her home country, cooking "accounts for over a third of energy requirements in an average household and is contributing to adverse climate change, disease, and death." As the founder of BrightGreen Renewable Energy, she is providing eco-friendly cooking fuels to low-income families and creating smokeless briquettes to significantly decrease smoke pollution. According to Lesan, "the poor take-up of modern energy technologies has been attributed to poverty and ignorance."
The Counsellors and delegates also strongly urged the audience to take up the challenges of the environment without delay. "The support of clean energy alternatives is not a choice - it’s a debt we contracted with the planet long ago”, said Eduardo Sanchez of Cuba. “Let’s use the tools of today to build the cities of tomorrow, so that tomorrow can come.”