Brainstorm Call to Monetarise Efficiency, Effectively Price Energy and Carbon

Brainstorm Call to Monetarise Efficiency, Effectively Price Energy and Carbon

"Ideas and opinions flowed freely and flew across the table and across the room." - Ken Hickson

Ken Hickson, Chairman and CEO - Sustain Ability Showcase Asia, participated in the 2012 Singapore brainstorm event and gives his thoughts on the topics discussed. 

None of the brainstormers could contain themselves. Ideas and opinions flowed freely and flew across the table and across the room.

Cameras caught at least some of the action, while elevator pitch deliveries from chosen representatives from the ten tables contained essential highlights of the wide-ranging energy issues and opportunities aired.

Having Minister Grace Fu on hand - from the Prime Minister’s office no less -  did not deter anyone else from raising thorny issues or extreme clean energy options, and whether they had relevance at home or abroad, didn’t seem to matter. 

Vocal contributions were extracted from all, even from my table which was also graced by the presence of Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War room, brother of UN Climate Change boss Christiana, and son of Costa Rica’s game-changing former President.

He freely shared his thoughts and wisdom too, as did fellow participant Dr Geh Min, the noted conservationist and former President of the Singapore Nature Society.

The good thing about the CNBC Shell brainstorm format is that everyone has the chance to have their say, unlike many conferences and forum where the “big-wigs” monopolise the show and the rest of us – whether media or common delegates – might be lucky enough to get an odd question in.

So what’s the verdict for the future energy scenario in Asia in 2035, for which we were all asked to do some considered crystal ball gazing?

Consistently, the matter of a price on carbon - and a more realistic price for energy - was something raised repeatedly which came out tops. The world must face up to and implement effective pricing – which will drive, and be driven by, energy efficiency and investment in renewables –to maintain a liveable climate, energy security and a safe environment.

Maybe there wasn't one single great idea, but there was enough energy and brain power in the room to give some hope that we are in good hands. Maybe we can plan ahead and effectively manoeuvre our way through a minefield to deal with a volatile and unpredictable future.

Energy was obviously at the heart of the matter and here are some of the brainstormed highlights:

  • Governments must work with business and provide incentives to effect a move to a low carbon economy and a clean energy future
  • There are “multiple benefits” in energy efficiency – save energy, save money - which would make carbon taxes or higher energy prices more affordable and palatable
  • The need for effective regional sourcing and distributing of renewable energy with cross country grids, underway in Europe and necessary in Asia
  • Accessing and utilising energy and environmental data more effectively to help to “monetarise efficiency” – the winning idea from table 4!
  • Let’s create wealth from waste – it’s a resource and not something to destroy, but instead turn into energy
  • Government must be an enabler to drive change through public private partnerships and boost economic performance to manage population growth
  • Maybe it will take a global catastrophe – in the order of a Fukushima – to make us accept the inevitable – a global energy tax and a pan Asian high voltage grid
  • To boost private sector investment in renewable energy and achieve “grid parity” , regulation must be reduced
  • There will be – or need to be –“ transformational technology” to decarbonise economies along with a mindset change through research and education
  • Cities are where change can best take place – change the culture, reduce energy consumption without reduced levels of comfort

Ken Hickson, who participated in the brainstorm in 2011 as well as this year, is the Chairman & CEO of the Singapore-based consultancy Sustain Ability Showcase Asia , the producer of the respected abc carbon express, a fortnightly review of all things related to climate, energy and environment, and the author of the 2009 landmark book “The ABC of Carbon”.  He has just released his list – for the second year - of 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. 

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