The Four Mighty Challenges of the Energy Transition

By Peter Bryant

February 28, 2023 •

In this article that originally appeared on LinkedIn, Board Chair & Managing Director Peter Bryant shares reflections on the four key challenges impacting the energy transition: emissions, social equity, the minerals famine, and China’s love affair with coal.


My regular weekend beach walk with my 16 yr old daughter results in another stream of consciousness! As I said last week there is a tremendous amount of noise in the media around the energy transition with the sole, almost manic, focus being solely on climate change, to be frank the coverage seems to be more about solar, wind and EVs and shut down the O&G. Yet it’s much more complex and there should be no argument from anyone that the ultimate responsibility of any government is to provide affordable-accessible and reliable energy that is clean as possible – underpinned by the principles of a just transition. This is the foundation of all human prosperity and is a fundamental human right in my view as it underpins many of the rights in the Human Rights Declaration – something they call a ‘derived human right’.

So what should we be focused on than you may very well ask?

In my humble opinion (my late Mum always taught me to speak my truth even when it was against the odds and it pushed the boundaries of conventional thinking that was being peddled at the time – the undoubted wisdom of a holocaust survivor, thanks Mum :))

The four challenges are:

1. Emissions: That we shift to an energy system that has very low emissions – I am not saying the type of energy just that it must have low/zero emissions or be on a credible path to reducing emissions in the timeframes that matter!

2. Social Equity: Simply put we must provide energy, as described above, to the billion that have none and the other billion that have poor access. This is an urgent task and we must be the innovation engine – technically and financially to make this happen – developed countries cannot be seen as an obstacle – which is currently the case – but an enabler!

Ernest J. Moniz said in is his co-authored piece published in Sept 2019 in the The Wall Street Journal – its as true today as it was in 2019!

‘Africa’s renewable energy projects are an important part of the global effort against climate change. But if the continent’s standard of living is going to improve, it will take more than windmills and solar panels. Natural gas will make Africa greener , more reliable than wind or solar and cleaner than wood or diesel’

3. The Minerals Famine: We are moving towards a set of energies and mode of transport (EVs) that is minerals dependent (rather than fossil fuel). The fact is, there will be significant supply gaps in key commodities like copper and nickel, thus undermining gov’ts and companies ability to achieve their goals through 2050. This is a substantial and not well understood risk to all climate related goals that cannot be ignored or superficially considered!

4. China’s love affair with coal: If we cannot change the trend of China emissions under pinned by its continuing build out in China and other countries of substantial coal generation (annually the equivalent of the UK or Californian entire generation capacity) than even a zero emission USA EU and UK will make no difference to the climate! And as a reminder look no further than Europe as exhibit one for affordable reliable and accessible being top of mind for all people and their governments.

The purpose of these musings is to spark an honest and respectful conversation,

 #energytransition #electricity #africa #justenergytransition

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