The geopolitics of the energy transition – changing tectonics

The geopolitics of the energy transition – changing tectonics

26 JAN 2022

Fundamental changes are taking place in the global energy system that will have significant geopolitical implications. These changes will affect almost all countries and will have wide-ranging consequences on economies and society. The geopolitical balance will shift and the dynamics of relationships between countries will also be transformed. Major oil-exporting countries will have to review their economic models and what it means for stability. On the other hand, many countries with large renewable potentials – whether high solar or wind power – still belong to the classic developing countries. How can the risk of geopolitical upheaval be prevented? 

Let us start at the beginning. What do we mean by energy transition? At its most basic level, the new energy transition is a shift from hydrocarbons to electricity. To put it simply: our world order has been based on oil. That is gradually changing. The importance of electrons in the overall energy supply chain will continuously increase. The use of electricity is already surging. It provides about 20 percent of energy today, and will have to rise to 50 percent by 2050, if countries are to meet their climate commitments according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Electrification will be a decisive answer for net-zero.

The socio-economic impacts 

The pace and scale of the transition has already shot past the most optimistic projections. Another reason for the fast-track transition is that the energy sector holds the key to averting the effects of climate change. We have reached a tipping point and the conversation around clean energy is higher on the agenda than ever. Currently, 14 members of the G20 had announced net zero targets by mid-century, covering 61 percent of global greenhouse emissions, according to Climate Transparency Report, 2021. How fairly and how fast the energy revolution happens is the biggest challenge of our time. 

Properly designed and implemented, energy transition will ease progress towards all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals, not just the goal that relates to universal, affordable and clean energy. It will enhance energy independence for most countries and thus the number of energy-related conflicts is likely to fall. It will also promote prosperity and job creation; improve food and water security; and enhance sustainability and equity.

For example, the US and EU’s plans for green recovery will give a boost to several clean energy technologies. Same for China which is investing heavily in renewable energy technologies and cross-border interconnectors. 

As countries prepare for their target of net-zero emissions by 2050, some regions such as the Middle East, are planning to trade more green fuels, such as hydrogen or green Ammonia. This gives rise to a whole new constellation of markets and bilateral trade relationships. We could see a new class of energy exporters that may emerge. 

At the same time, the energy transition will generate new challenges. A rapid shift away from fossil fuels could create a financial shock. Workers and communities that depend on fossil fuels maybe hit adversely. That is why we need to develop technologies to enhance a smooth transition. 

Countries leading the energy transition race

In the new energy world, technology will be an important differentiating factor. There will be three ways for countries to exert influence in the new system. One is by exporting electricity or green fuels. Another is by controlling the raw materials used for clean energy technologies, such as lithium and cobalt. The third is by gaining an edge in technologies such as electric vehicle batteries. With renewable resources so readily available. 

How to transport this energy and ensure it reaches people in an efficient and affordable way is a big piece of the puzzle. Hence, trading power will also be on the rise with an increase in cross-border electricity interconnection projects. 

For example, our engineers helped construct Nemo Link, the first high-voltage (HV) interconnector between Belgium and the UK, which can supply up to 1,000 megawatts of clean electricity. It is also one of the several HV transmission links connecting Britain’s electricity grid to the national grids of neighboring countries. In the middle of this transformation lie power grids, the true enabler of energy transition. 

Opportunity for transformational change

To ensure the success of a global net-zero approach, we need also to understand some aspects: 
1) Regions might take longer on the fossil fuel transition because of the specifics of their development or their energy landscape. 
2) Legacy energy infrastructure will need attention and adequate investment. 
3) We need also to tackle socio-economic aspects, so we do not end up having winners and losers.

For regions such as the Middle East, which is blessed with natural resources, but also has abundant renewable resources, the transition could be an economic gift. We see many countries working to leapfrog technologies based on fossil fuels with ambitious economic diversification plans. 

We are actively supporting the countries of the region through piloting new projects to accelerate the energy transition. A few examples include our partnership with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Expo 2020 to construct the region’s first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility. The project also sets an example in public-private partnerships. We also joined forces Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, Etihad Airways, German Lufthansa, Marubeni Corporation and Khalifa University to produce aviation eFuel. This is in addition to other agreements recently signed in both Egypt and Oman to develop their hydrogen economies. 

Despite difficulties, the energy transition will ultimately move the world in the right direction by addressing climate change, combating pollution, promoting prosperity, as well as sustainable development. But it requires new frameworks, cross-sector partnerships between public and private sectors, and stronger international cooperation to underwrite our common journey. 

Written by,
Dr. Christian Bruch, President and CEO, Siemens Energy 


24 APR 2024

Sustainability in the UAE: The Impact of Private Sector Partnerships

By His Excellency Ahmed Khalifa Al Qubaisi, CEO of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry

In an era where climate change poses one of the most significant challenges to our global community, the United Arab Emirates has pioneered many initiatives for climate neutrality, becoming a leader in environmental sustainability. As exemplified by hosting the COP28 Conference to mobilize global efforts, collective efforts are necessary. The result was the historic UAE Consensus.

At the heart of this leadership, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) champions a vision that aligns closely with the UAE's national climate action agenda, emphasizing the indispensable role of the private sector in realizing these ambitious goals.

The ADCCI’s collaboration with COP28 and the adoption of the UAE Consensus have not only strengthened its sustainability efforts but also significantly impacted the business community. By aligning with the UAE's ambitious climate targets and adopting sustainable practices, companies can position themselves as leaders in transitioning to a greener economy. The long-term impacts of this collaboration are immense, as it has set a precedent for other countries and organizations to follow suit and work toward a sustainable future.

During COP28, the ADCCI actively supported several panel discussions, which addressed the most feasible and available solutions proposed to help SMEs achieve net zero and provided them with access to an advanced set of tools that would enable them to decarbonize and support the global climate goals.

Through its partnership with COP28, the ADCCI has launched several effective initiatives and projects to enhance the private sector’s contribution to achieving climate neutrality. As a result, the ADCCI has extended its support to the COP28 platform and the SME Climate Hub for the MENA region. One of the most notable accomplishments of the ADCCI is establishing a focal point for the sustainability activities of private sector companies in the region. This platform provides companies access to all the necessary resources and tools to help them achieve their sustainable climate goals. It enables them to take constructive actions and measure their progress toward achieving net-zero emissions.

The private sector can help achieve the UAE’s sustainability goals by adopting sustainable practices, investing in sustainable technologies, and collaborating with the government and other stakeholders. By doing so, businesses contribute to the UAE’s sustainability goals and enhance their competitiveness and long-term viability. ADCCI plays a significant role in supporting businesses in adopting sustainable practices and technologies, collaborating with the government and other stakeholders to create a business-friendly environment that promotes sustainable growth.

Businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are at the forefront of innovation and economic diversification. Recognizing their potential, the ADCCI has launched several initiatives aimed at empowering SMEs to transition towards net-zero emissions. Among these, our collaboration with the Australian firm Vyzrd on the 5+5 program stands out as a beacon of innovation, providing SMEs with the tools and knowledge to embark on a sustainable business journey.

Innovation and diversification of investment portfolios are essential in Abu Dhabi’s business ecosystems. We believe that collaborative efforts are crucial to achieve climate goals. Emerging trends and advancements, such as renewable energy and carbon capture and storage, will shape the future of sustainability. The ADCCI is committed to staying ahead and equipping our members to leverage such opportunities.

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week remains a critical platform for us to showcase our achievements, share knowledge, and engage with global leaders in climate action. Our participation in this platform underscores our commitment to advancing sustainable development and highlights the UAE's role as a hub for sustainability innovation. The journey toward sustainability is challenging, yet offers unparalleled opportunities for innovation, growth, and leadership. Our progress depends on a collective commitment to reducing climate change and preserving the environment.

The ADCCI remains dedicated to this cause, fostering a business ecosystem where sustainability is not just a goal but a guiding principle for all our endeavors. Together, with collective action and commitment, we can achieve a sustainable future for MENA and the world.


17 NOV 2023

Faster decarbonization of global industry needs intense collaboration

By Miguel López, thyssenkrupp CEO

Late November is rapidly approaching, bringing COP28 into view. The world’s attention is turning to Dubai, and how the conference will shape the future development of global industries in pursuit of a sustainable environmental future for all.

Each year, the world’s most important climate conference produces measures that satisfy some while disappointing others – an inevitable outcome when compromises are being hammered out between hundreds of nations within a massively condensed timeframe. However, one message that consistently cuts through the post-conference analysis of every COP is this: we must move faster. We must decarbonize our global economy faster to keep the Paris Agreement 1.5C target alive and stave off the worst effects of climate change.

This is why thyssenkrupp will be joining COP28; we’re bringing a diverse team including top executives and experts to Dubai to be part of the conversation, to share our expertise and contribution, and encourage deeper collaboration throughout our industry and beyond.


Ambitious adoption of key technologies will drive the green transformation

After power generation, the industrial sector is the biggest global emitter of greenhouse gases, representing 30% of annual emissions and 40% of global energy consumption. We’re highly aware of the carbon-intensive nature of our own operations, as thyssenkrupp Steel emits approximately 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Conversely, this means that almost nobody can make a greater contribution to decarbonisation in Germany than we can. Or to put it bluntly: we at thyssenkrupp are one of the most effective climate activists with our decarbonisation commitment.

Don’t misunderstand me: It is not easy to do. Change begins at home, which is why our green transformation efforts to achieve complete carbon neutrality by 2050 are in full swing.

On October 1st 2023, thyssenkrupp brought together its key decarbonization technologies under a single segment. Alongside my CEO role, I am also leading the new segment. With this I would like to emphasize that thyssenkrupp is fully committed to the green transformation. By building a green industrial powerhouse of interconnecting technologies, we turn from being part of the climate change problem to becoming an integral part of the solution.

The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions as far as possible. So here too, anyone who can achieve this is one of the biggest climate protection pioneers. We can. And therefore, that's what we want to be. That is our opportunity and our mission.

These are crucial developments because they can unlock the future of ecologically sustainable industries anywhere in the world. Put simply, if we can create the means for greener industry, and then transport them at scale, we can make global industry truly sustainable.


Risk vs Reward – Tech adoptions need shared knowledge and responsibility

Upscaling greener technology is inevitable, but it carries justifiable concerns and adoption risks. Industrial operations are based on economies of scale and feature processes that may have remained broadly similar for years if not decades. Completely overhauling the infrastructure and daily operations of such outfits is a daunting prospect, which is exactly why we must share our experiences and disseminate best practices to help every industrial sector scale up its tech adoption with greater speed and surety.

COP28 is the ideal forum to do this, as it fosters collaboration on an international scale. Building alliances is the surest way to build the necessary confidence to act faster and bolder when it comes to decarbonization. At thyssenkrupp, we are ready to further engage here and work together in global initiatives.


Green ambitions + green funding = green hydrogen

To talk specifics, green hydrogen is a perfect example of how decarbonization and the overall green transformation of industry can be turbocharged with the right combination of ambition and resource commitment.

Regarding our own efforts, steel making is an extremely emissions-heavy business; the thyssenkrupp Steel plant in Duisburg produces 30,000 tons of pig iron per day, producing more than 55,000 tons of CO2 in the process. However, hydrogen is the key to eliminating these emissions, as its use means that only water vapor is emitted instead of carbon dioxide.

To achieve a hydrogen ramp-up on a truly industrial scale, we’re forging ahead with the "tkH2Steel" decarbonization project – a technologically new plant combination where hydrogen allows for the creation of 2.5 million metric tons of directly reduced iron per year. This is a crucial step towards producing three million tons of CO2-reduced steel per year from 2030.

Not only will this project save a ton of emissions (6 million tons by 2030, to be exact) it will serve as a springboard for Germany’s green hydrogen production, with this facility alone aiming for a target annual capacity of 143,000 metric tons. This is what iterative change looks like – not only are we decarbonizing our operations, we’re creating the technological advancements and the literal fuel for green transformation across the industry.

thyssenkrupp is investing almost three billion euros in the first direct reduction plant as part of "tkH2Steel" at the Duisburg site. We are receiving funding totaling around two billion euros from the federal and state governments for this project. Again, this underlines the accelerative force of private-public collaboration. Without it, the project would likely have a much later implementation timeframe – and time is a resource we have very little to spare.


Can COP28 serve as a turning point in the climate struggle?

As the opening ceremony for COP28 draws near, all attendees should use these remaining days to consider what they will bring to the table. While use cases, tech adoption experiences (good and bad), suggestions and hard data are all invaluable, perhaps the most important element to bring is a collaborative mentality.

Every agreement, target and measure produced at previous COPs was the work of painstaking cooperation and the vision to deliver a net-zero world economy. At COP28, everyone has their part to play, and, increasingly, that part must be aligned with the efforts of others to leverage its full potential.


10 NOV 2023

How China is accelerating the global energy transition

Lynn Xia,
Senior Director - Overseas Strategical Key Account Department,

Recent extreme weather events show all too vividly the far-reaching environmental impacts of changes in the Earth's climate caused by increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In the race to avoid climate catastrophe, the focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions has led to a massive surge in the adoption of renewable energy.

As a China-based provider of cutting edge solutions for a sustainable future, Sungrow is very aware of the major role this country is playing in the global energy transition. Last year, China invested $546 billion in solar and wind energy, electric vehicles and batteries. In the first six months of 2023, China increased silicon wafer production by 63%, solar cell production by 62%, polysilicon production by 65% and photovoltaic (PV) module production by 60%. It exported over $29 billion worth of PV products.

A recent report from independent research group Global Energy Monitor (GEM) estimated that China could more than double its solar and wind capacity by the end of 2025. If all projects are successfully built and commissioned, China will surpass its 2030 target of 1,200GW of solar and wind power five years ahead of schedule. China accounted for 55% of the global spend on solar and wind in 2022 and there are more solar panels installed in large-scale projects in this country than the rest of the world combined.

As the world’s most bankable inverter brand with over 340GW installed worldwide and owner of the world’s largest inverter factory, Sungrow has seen this growth at first hand. With a 26-year track record in the PV space, our products are installed in over 150 countries worldwide. Sungrow’s climate action philosophy is to provide “Clean power for all” with high quality PV and storage solutions based on our deep understanding and project experience in different scenarios.

In the words of Senior Vice President James Wu: ”Low carbon is an important concept in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and Sungrow has been engaged in making a positive environmental influence for 26 years with reliable solar energy and energy storage products and technical support on a regional and global scale.”

While acknowledging that the road to zero carbon will be full of difficulties, Wu has been encouraged by the appointment of H.E. Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and chairman of clean energy pioneer Masdar, as COP28 President Designate to lead negotiations to limit the global average temperature rise at the conference. His understanding of traditional and renewable energy is expected to deliver positive outcomes for the energy transition and to reduce global carbon emissions.

The UAE and China share common goals in contributing to the energy transition and carbon neutrality. The UAE has demonstrated real leadership in the advancement of renewable energy and has a remarkable track record in tackling climate change. Its commitment to renewable energy was given form by the creation of Masdar 17 years ago. Masdar is now one of the largest renewable companies in the world with a clean energy portfolio of 30GW. The UAE has set a target of installed clean energy capacity of 19.8 GW (including solar) by 2030, contributing 30% of the country’s total energy mix as part of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.

As founding CEO of Masdar, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, was an early pioneer and champion of renewable energy. His knowledge, experience and panoramic perspective of renewable and traditional energy are likely to prove invaluable at COP28.

Sungrow is honored to be part of a number of landmark clean energy projects in the UAE that demonstrate the role solar energy can play in the energy transition. We are a major supplier of inverters to the 2GW Al Dhafra solar plant, the largest single-site solar PV power plant in the world. The plant will use approximately 4 million solar panels to generate enough electricity for around 160,000 homes across the UAE and mitigate 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. The world knows the importance of energy and the replacement of traditional energy sources has led to many major improvements in the renewable energy industry. Sungrow looks forward to working with partners and investors, especially upstream and downstream organisations in the supply chain, to support the global energy transition. The COP28 meeting is expected to comprehensively discuss key issues and challenges, such as efforts to improve energy efficiency, accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, scale up low-emission hydrogen, reduce emissions from road transport and heavy industry, and develop a practical and inclusive action plan with agreed priorities and positions.

Many of us are calling for emission reductions and a rapid path to net zero by mid-century. The question of how to reduce emissions globally is complex. Bridging differences and reducing confrontation is even more complex.

Stronger action than ever before must be taken to protect the environment with a zero carbon future. But assigning blame or fighting each other is pointless. As the old Chinese proverb says, "No egg remains unbroken when the nest is overturned". Planet Earth is like a bird's nest that needs to be protected and we are as fragile as the eggs inside. Practical and inclusive solutions are required to keep the planet safe because humanity cannot survive in extreme weather conditions.