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A central session of the World Energy Forum considered how fossil fuels can meet future energy needs whilst ensuring they remain economically sound and environmentally solid
Dubai welcomed the world through its doors in October, with the first World Energy Forum to be held outside of New York held in the city between 22-24 October.
Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the event had an ambitious remit to discuss how to achieve sustainable energy supplies for all.
“We will chart a roadmap with the nations of the world to put plans and initiatives in action that can provide safe, sustainable and accessible energy for the peoples of the world, to fuel global social and economic development.
This roadmap requires clearly linked and measurable goals and milestones to achieve this,” HE Mohammed Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy, told Utilities Middle East before the event kicked off.
With such a broad, far-reaching mission, it is telling that the first topic discussed during the conference’s second day was the continued primary importance of fossil fuels to the global energy mix.
Featuring a sweep of energy ministers from around the Middle East, Africa and India, the panel discussed the future role of oil and gas in meeting energy needs, together with considerations of how negative impacts – chiefly environmental and financial – can be circumscribed.
Whilst most of the panel was keen to emphasis the future potential of renewable energy, and their own states’ methods of adopting them, the presentations were largely focused on efficient and economic use of fossil fuel reserves.
Indeed, in the opening panel speech, India’s oil and gas minister, Jaipal Reddy, emphasised both of these points as the key challenges he believed the Forum needed to address, saying: “Fossil fuels cannot be pushed away, but their environmental effect can be mitigated and prices can be made lower. The Forum can and should make a positive move in this direction.”
India currently relies on fossil fuels to meet 92% of its energy needs, and Reddy said that he foresaw natural gas becoming the fastest growing fuel source, with coal (currently contributing 53% to the country’s total fuel mix) maintaining its predominant role.
He also suggested that renewables have a “miniscule share” of the global energy mix, and could not even supplement, much less supplant, fossil fuels in the near-term.
The minister also suggested that India was taking a two-pronged approached to shale gas – a “game-changer” for the industry – with plans to acquire assets abroad in addition to ramping up domestic production.
Oman’s oil and gas minister, Dr Mohammed Hamad Al Rumhi, suggested that a key part of the energy question that needed settling was ensuring the industry focuses as much on the consumer side of energy, as it does on supply security issues.
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