Speaking this week as the 2015 recipient of the Energy Institute (EI)'s Cadman Award, Malcolm Brinded, chairman of Shell Foundation, has called for increased focus on breakthrough technology and business innovations to respond to the challenges of international development, climate change and urbanization - while meeting the world's growing demand for energy.
“Today five billion people consume less than one third of the world’s energy, whilst two billion of us consume more than two thirds,” said Brinded, while addressing 180 energy professionals in London. “Two billion poor are completely without reliable and affordable energy. And 1.2 billion live entirely without electricity.”
According to Brinded, energy provides the foundation for economic and social growth, especially for developing societies. “Prioritizing the needs of these five billion, and creating a pathway to deliver the affordable energy they need for a decent quality of life, is critical to building a truly global coalition to tackle climate change, with the urgency, and global consensus, it absolutely needs,” he said. “The urban deprivation from pollution and lack of infrastructure creates just as many challenges as for the rural poor.”
Brinded stressed the immense scale of these challenges while highlighting emerging evidence from a range of promising, and perhaps unexpected, enterprise-led solutions, including small-scale solar power engineering. While not affordable commercially, Brinded is hopeful that these renewable solutions are the key to improving urban infrastructure.
“The mushrooming urbanization challenge is immense, but many cities like Mexico City, Beijing, Ahmedabad and Rio are now several moves ahead in planning more compact urban developments that give poorest citizens easier access to jobs, services and better, more fuel-efficient public transport systems,” he said.
Brinded also called for a new focus on meeting energy needs in emerging markets to be front and center, in what is a big year for international development, and to be driven by new technology and business innovation.
Brinded offered five focus areas for businesses, investors, governments and policymakers to consider in the run up to COP 21 in Paris and as the UN Sustainable Development goals are finalized:
“I have five big global asks,” he concluded. “Tackle the energy needs of the five billion people using less than a third of the world’s energy, alongside the climate change challenge; work together to find a pathway to an interconnected global carbon market as soon as possible; dramatically accelerate access to energy for the billions in the dark today, starting with proven solutions, such as solar lighting, clean cook-stoves and rural mini-grids; make a step change in global collaboration and investment focused on the challenge of immensely rapid developing world urbanization; and channel more focus towards enterprise-based solutions, with more resources deployed on early stage innovation, in both technology and business models, and on enabling markets to be more efficient and more inclusive.”