World making progress on energy transition but speed not there yet, says WEF executive

UAE more advanced than many other countries in energy transition, Roberto Bocca tells The National

Roberto Bocca, of the World Economic Forum, said it was vital to 'bridge the gap between developed and developing countries'. Antonie Robertson / The National
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The world is making progress on energy transition but not at the speed required to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels as per the Paris Agreement, a senior executive of the World Economic Forum has said.

Roberto Bocca, head of energy, materials and infrastructure and member of the executive committee of the World Economic Forum, gave an interview to The National.

He said: “There is progress [on energy transition] but it is still far too slow versus what we want to do."

Universal energy access, as well as energy security, are important as the world focuses on reducing emissions, he added.

“So are we achieving universal energy access? Not yet. Are we achieving energy security at a higher level? A little bit but not enough. And are we achieving the Paris goal? No, not yet, so I think it’s going slow but it has started, that is the good news., The bad news is the speed is not there yet.”

Investment in renewable energy technology reached a record of $1.3 trillion last year but that figure must rise to about $5 trillion annually to meet the key Paris accord goals, the Abu Dhabi-based agency said in its World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023 preview in March.

Renewable capacity must grow from about 3,000 gigawatts currently to more than 10,000 gigawatts by 2030, an average of 1,000 gigawatts annually, the report suggests.

Investment in renewable energy needs to double to more than $4 trillion by the end of the decade to meet net-zero emissions targets by 2050, the International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook last year.

"Investments are definitely happening globally but more is needed," Mr Bocca said, highlighting the need to invest more in emerging economies for an equitable energy transition.

In November, the UAE and the US signed a strategic partnership to invest $100 billion to produce 100 gigawatts of clean energy globally by 2035.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber says this is the decade to provide clean energy the world needs

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As part of the partnership, the two countries will set up an expert group to identify priority projects.

They will also seek to “bridge the gap between developed and developing countries in the investment in and deployment of clean energy to ensure global efforts to reduce emissions do not falter”, the White House said at the time.

The two countries will also work together to prioritise commercial projects in developing and poor countries, as well as support them with technical and financial assistance.

"We always to have in mind that profitability is a key element," Mr Bocca said. "So how we can put in place those mechanisms that make the profitability happen? What is the role, for example, of the financial institutions, the multilateral financial institution in enabling those investments?

"Why will an investment in Germany cost 2 per cent in terms of capital costs, and the capital costs in another region, in emerging economies, 7 to 8 per cent? That gap is impeding investors to invest."

The UAE is way ahead of "many others in moving to the energy transition ... a testament to Masdar that was created 17 years ago", he said.

The UAE is investing Dh600 billion ($163.5 billion) in clean and renewable energy projects over the next three decades as it aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The country is building the world’s largest solar plant in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi with a capacity of 2 gigawatts, as well as the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park in Dubai with a 5 gigawatt capacity.

The UAE will also be hosting the Cop28 summit this year, with the event providing an opportunity "to take stock of what has happened since the Paris Agreement, to see where we are and where we are not and certainly, we are not on the right track on it", Mr Bocca added.

Updated: May 10, 2023, 5:30 AM