Energy Transition

Can we become ‘energy literate’?

Bob Dudley
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Energy Transition?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Climate Crisis is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Energy Transition

For me, energy literacy means having a debate on energy that’s based on solid data and an understanding of what is possible and realistic as the world strives to build a more sustainable energy future.

Choosing the right energy pathway is complex because energy, water and land are intertwined. To help inform such a debate, BP has funded a consortium of experts from 13 universities around the world to provide scientific evidence to underpin policy making and business planning. The programme is called the Energy Sustainability Challenge (ESC).

As one part of this programme, work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has revealed how volumes of water used in power stations and fuel production plants worldwide could be reduced. For example, ten-fold reductions in water used by power plants can come from using cooling towers where water is recycled, rather than ‘once-through’ systems where water is extracted from oceans, lakes or other sources each time it is needed.

Researchers at Beijing’s Tsinghua University went one step further. They calculated that the amount of freshwater used by Chinese industry could be reduced over the next two decades – instead of doubling as currently expected – through improved technical approaches such as water recycling in coal mining and washing coal before it’s burned for power.

In another part of the ESC, academics at the Universities of Berkeley and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the potential for producing biofuels in the United States from perennial energy cane, which can be grown on land less suitable for conventional arable crops. They found significant areas of such land, with the potential to more than double current bio-ethanol production in the US without competing with food and feed crops.

These examples show the power of research to identify the areas where there is the greatest potential for progress over different timeframes.

It’s an approach we should also apply to the debate on climate change. For example, while renewable energy is growing rapidly – and BP invested $1.6 billion last year in low carbon energy (on track to meet our commitment of investing $8 billion by 2015) – it is starting from a low base. We expect renewable energy will contribute only about 6% of global supply by 2030 . In the meantime we should consider that bigger gains could be made quickly through improving energy efficiency and displacing coal with gas on a large scale in power generation.

The innovation required for lowering carbon intensity can most efficiently be incentivized by pricing carbon – and because we expect that this will become more common, we require investment appraisals and engineering designs for larger BP projects to apply a standard carbon cost to the projected GHG emissions over their lifetime.

Meanwhile, the emerging findings from the ESC are available on BP’s website – we offer them as one contribution towards a more energy-literate world.

Author: Bob Dudley is Group Chief Executive of BP plc.

Photo: A man rides his bike past a cooling tower in Beijing. REUTERS/David Gray

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Energy TransitionClimate Action
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

AI and energy: Will AI help reduce emissions or increase demand? Here's what to know

Eleni Kemene, Bart Valkhof and Thapelo Tladi

July 22, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum