The way we power our lives is undergoing a huge transition. How can we minimise the pain and maximise the gain?

How well is your country’s energy system working? Is it ready to transition from fossil fuels to renewables, while ensuring energy security, sustainability, and economic development? A new guide by the World Economic Forum has answers.

Whether it’s using plants to power muscles, ancient buried carbon to transport ourselves, or nuclear reactions to light up the dark, humans always have—and always will—depend on energy to meet the basic needs of life. Exactly how we do that, though, is undergoing a change today as profound as the ones that moved us from depending on our own labor to horsepower, or from horsepower to fossil fuels.

Underlying changes in geopolitics, environmental and health concerns, economics, technology, consumer demand and business models are driving a global transition toward more sustainable, inclusive, secure and affordable energy production, distribution and consumption systems.

How smoothly the transition takes place, and how the benefits and costs of undergoing it balance out, likely will depend on the extent to which we strategically direct it, rather than just let it happen. To that end, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has established a Systemic Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy as a way to argue for, and provide tools for shaping, a good energy transition.

As part of that effort, WEF, with help from McKinsey & Company, just released a new guide aimed at stimulating policies, corporate actions and public-private collaborations that promote a healthy shift.

The guide, Fostering Effective Energy Transition: A Fact-based Framework to Support Decision-Making, presents an Energy Transition Index (ETI) that makes it possible to quantify for individual countries how well the current energy system is working (measured along the three dimensions of security and access, environmental sustainability, and economic development and growth) and the country’s readiness to undergo a transition to a new energy system, taking into account factors such as infrastructure, institutions, capital and political commitment.

Applying the index to 114 countries around the world, WEF draws three main conclusions. First, though most countries assessed have improved their energy systems in recent years, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Second, energy transitions can be encouraged by 1) creating conditions that facilitate desired change; 2) making sure to make improvements across all three areas of access, sustainability and economy; and 3) pursuing strategies that provide multiple synergistic benefits. Third, it’s important to recognise that each country needs to follow its own path—yet each can still learn from others.

WEF plans to update the index regularly to provide further benchmarks and feedback across time in hopes people will use the ETI to better understand how prepared various countries are to undergo an energy transition, motivate less-prepared countries to prepare, and provide ideas for how to best go about doing so.

This article was written by Mary Hoff and republished with permission from Ensia.com

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