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History and future of the global energy transition – full 30 minute presentation at Making Solar Bankable 2018 on video

180215 Audience at Solarplaza [embed][/embed] Keynote presentation delivered in Amsterdam 15the February 2018. See the longer version of this powerpoint, "History and future of the global energy transition 2016 - 2017 in pictures and charts", including source urls posted as notes.
Posted in Blogs, Videos

A good news story at SolarAid / status report on ‘The Test’

maxresdefault Brave Mhonie has worked for SolarAid in Malawi for 10 years, through good times and bad, working his way up to be national director of our non-profit retail brand, SunnyMoney. In gratitude we part-paid for him to achieve a dream of his: a qualification from a top European business school. He has now been awarded his Diploma in Advanced Studies in Renewable Energy Management from the University of St Gallen. In an e-mail to the team in London, letting them know of his success, Brave said: "Thank you for the powerful gift of knowledge that you have given me. Through the programme, I have gained valuable experience which will help me to positively contribute to the growth of SunnyMoney business not just in Malawi but other countries too." Our response to him was: "Thank you for the powerful gifts of loyalty and hard work you have given, and are yet giving, to us." I offer this story as a microcosm of an important theme in development: the power of education to accelerate change. In doing so I should declare an interest. I teach one day a year on the St Gallen course, and the director, Professor Rolf Wuestenhagen, is a friend. But I mark no exam papers or theses. Brave features in my serialised book, The Test, naturally. I have been writing Chapter 5, and I append a scene involving him and the course in question. But when it comes to The Test, I find I have hit a problem. As I intimated in Chapter 4, SolarAid and SunnyMoney CEO John Keane has had a big new idea. It has become a central theme in the evolving story. But if I write about its detail, and progress, I risk undermining its prospects of success. This is a quality problem, easily solved: I have decided to stop publishing episodes in serialised form.  I promise to finish the book at a suitable break point in the "defining challenge for humankind", as I style it, probably in 2020. But the remaining chapters will have to wait until then before seeing the light of day. I apologise to those who tell me they have been enjoying the story so far, and that they look forward to the next instalment. I appeal for your understanding. EXTRACT FROM  "THE TEST" Berlin, 26th October 2017 A city I love, full of memories. October 1989, and a middle-of-the-night train ride in then East Berlin, past a floodlit wall, drinking in the sullen misty violence of it, never imagining that in just a few days it would be torn down. April 1995, taking a delegation from the insurance industry to the first ever annual summit under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, where governments agreed for the first time that they would act collectively to reduce global emissions. November 2004, on the Queen’s delegation of British scientists to discuss climate change for a day with the German Chancellor’s delegation. November 2013, on a massive demonstration in support of renewable energy, mourning my old friend and father of the German renewables industries, Hermann Scheer. March 2017, at a German Energy Agency conference on clean-energy, plotting trans-Atlantic resistance to the new despotism and its climate-change denial with American billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer. Today is a rare day of teaching: eight hours with a class of business executives taking the University of St Gallen’s diploma in renewable energy management. St Gallen is in Switzerland, but the executives are treated to block release teaching sessions of a week at a time in relevant locations around the world. Today’s is on a campus set up by the German government for research, development, promotion and analysis of the national renewable energy programme, the Energiewende. EUREF, as it is called, is built on the site of an old gas works. Today it is both a university and home to more than 100 companies, with students and workers alike housed in the most smart and low carbon of new buildings. An unused gas storage tank dominates the skyline, wind turbines now atop it and Teslas charging at its base. The air smells no longer of gas, but the future. My class comes from an array of corporate giants, mostly Swiss and German. There is one exception. Brave Mhonie, sales director at SunnyMoney Malawi, is realising a dream of his: postgraduate business training. SolarAid is paying most of his fees, a scholarship the rest. It is our reward for ten years of service. Brave will soon take over from Phil Walton as country director. It is a long time since I have taken a class for a whole day. I split the sessions into four, stock up with water and sore throat tablets, and hope for the best. The fourth and final session is the first time I have attempted a synthesis of tech in its entirety, in full societal context, for a business audience. My helicopter view spans the uses and abuses of AI, robotics, and all the rest, conflated with the broadly bullish analysis I present these days on the state of the global energy transition. The net result is, shall we simply say, less positive and optimistic than the energy-alone analysis. That can and of course must change, I conclude. It makes business sense that it does so. I time the presentation poorly, and have to rush the end of it. I also have the feeling that I have included too much background on neuroscience and psychiatry, of the kind that liberals might cherry pick, and which risks making the selling of the overall idea more difficult should there be conservatives in the audience. Swiss business execs, after all, are not generally known for their liberalism. I repair to a bar afterwards with Brave and Rolf Wuestenhagen, the University of St Gallen professor who runs the whole course. I find myself much in need of a large beer. We review the day. Rolf allays my fears: he has had good feedback from many of the students, he says. Relieved, I move the conversation swiftly on to SolarAid’s state of play, and a brainstorm of our challenges and opportunities. I find Brave aflame with desire to break SunnyMoney out of its stagnation, eager to apply the things he is learning on Rolf’s course back home in Malawi, much looking forward to John Keane’s upcoming visit. The beer tastes better with each sip.
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The oil industry and the global energy transition: presentation to Big Oil shareholders

Screenshot 2018-02-26 10.18.21 On February 21st shareholder activist group Follow This partnered with Principles for Responsible Investment and Share Action to hold a seminar for investors in the City of London entitled 'How can investors help oil majors to commit to Paris'. The presentations and discussion were off the record, but I am happy to make my presentation public. A slightly extended version can be found in read-only format on slideshare, and in its powerpoint original version, with source urls as notes, here.
Posted in Blogs, Presentations

The current crop of oil and gas company investments and acquisitions in clean energy: a quick Q & A

bp-beyond-petroleum-solar-photo Picture: BP advertising, 2000. Q: Are they actually committed to diversifying beyond oil and gas this time, or is this just a fresh round of greenwash? A: All this is beyond greenwash, but far short of retreat consistent with the Paris Agreement – the oil and gas companies and are essentially taking out hedge bets: a halfway house between blind adherence to incumbent business models and the 180-degree U-turns away from fossil fuels being attempted by many big utilities. Q: What is spurring the current round of acquisitions of renewables developers, power suppliers and EV infrastructure firms? Is it market pressures (e.g. EVs, renewable cost reductions) rather than government policies that are forcing change? A: Its a mix of these two plus the realisation by some senior oil players that the game really is up with their business models, climate policy or no climate policy. They know that all they can do at $50 oil is lose money. For how long can they gamble that oil will stay far enough above $50 for long enough to make money? What kind of business model is that, long term? At some point a critical mass of investors is going to realise it is a house of cards, and then the punishment in the markets will really start. In the face of that growing risk, the sooner they can retreat to clean energy tech the better. Q: How is this different from beyond petroleum and Shell renewables plans of early noughties? A: This is utterly different. Then, most in the industry really did think they were engaged in greenwash, with technologies that grown ups would never use at scale because they would never be cheaper than the incumbency fuels. Now they, and much of the rest of the world, know different. Q: Which of the IOCs is most serious about changing? A: Statoil and Total. And latterly I think the sum of Shell's moves is moving them close to these two. But while all these companies persist in the view that the future is gas, with some renewables alongside, they increase the chances that they won't make it across the energy transition to the decarbonised future. Q: What should we expect in 2018? A: Plenty of drama, for sure. The first company may break with the pack, name the end years for oil and gas (2040 would do, but 2030 would be more prudent), and map an energy-transition strategy back from that. That's what they should do. But incumbency blood runs thick in this industry.
Posted in Blogs

Lloyd’s of London divests from coal 25 years after first being advised to. What financial damage to their business has the delay entailed?

Screenshot 2018-01-23 11.52.15 In a report entitled "Climate Change and The Insurance Industry", the world's largest insurance market was advised as follows in February 1993: “It would behove the industry to look very closely at where all capital is invested. Fossil-fuel-related operations should be eschewed, and solar energy and energy-efficiency projects favoured.” I remember that well. I wrote the report, and presented it at Lloyd's of London, before a large audience of worried-looking reinsurers. Below is an extract from my book, The Carbon War, first published in 1999, describing the event, and a link to the original report. On 21st January 2018, they finally decided to divest from coal, the most dangerous fossil fuel in terms of climate change. An issue arises here. By delaying a quarter of a century enacting what is surely such an obvious self-protection measure, how much damage has Lloyd's done to investors who have placed their trust in them, in the interim, when it comes to weather-related disasters Extract from The Carbon War: February 1993, London  When I returned to Lloyd’s of London for the second time, it was to give a seminar. Over the Christmas break, I had written a report on my basic case on the implications of global warming for the insurance industry. During January, I had the report reviewed within the insurance industry. Lloyd’s experts, and the head of Munich Re’s technical team, had ironed out the glitches for me, thus giving the report a vital layer of credibility. Greenpeace offices around the world were set to release the report to the media immediately after my presentation to Lloyd’s. Richard Keeling, recently appointed to the Council of Lloyd’s, and Chairman for the seminar, met me at the door. “Don’t scare them too much,” he told me with a small grin as a hundred or so underwriters and agents filed into the mock-ancient lecture room in the heart of the ultra-modern building. “They have so much to worry about at the moment, poor dears.” Not just them. In Hawaii during December, the Hawaiian Insurance Group - the State’s fifth biggest insurer - had announced that its huge losses meant it had to cease trading. Other Hawaiian insurers immediately issued an indefinite moratorium on the writing of new policies. First Insurance, Hawaii’s biggest insurer, announced that it would cease renewing existing policies as of 1st February 1993. 38,000 homeowners would then be stranded, without insurance for their homes. In Florida, things were just as bad. As the full extent of the losses from Hurricane Andrew became clear, amid bankruptcies among the smaller insurance companies, the state Insurance Commissioner pushed emergency legislation through, mandating $500 million in claims to hurricane victims who had been left stranded by the collapsed companies. Then on December 10th, New England was hit by one of its worst-ever storms. Dubbed “The Great Nor’easter of 1992” by insurers, it flooded the New York subway, causing it to be closed down for the first time in its history. Hurricane-force winds, heavy rains, river and tidal flooding, and massive snowfalls caused $650 million in insured losses. The barrage dragged houses into the sea, wreaked havoc along 600 miles of coastline, killed at least 18 people, and caused a state of emergency to be declared in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. I gave my lecture in Lloyd’s to a particularly attentive audience. I waited to see how the release of the report would go. Greenpeace Germany’s ace campaigner Wollo Lohbeck phoned me that night to say that he had six live radio interviews the next morning, and would I please tell him what the report was all about? In the week thereafter, he clocked up dozens of radio and print interviews. Greenpeace Netherlands and Denmark also reaped superb coverage. Greenpeace Norway opted for an “exclusive,” and this resulted in a long and prominent story in one of Norway’s major papers, where normally the whaling issue made good coverage for Greenpeace impossible to come by. In Japan, Yasuko Matsumoto was over the moon. Asahi Shimbun gave the report a quarter of a page. The journalist who covered it had done some research of his own on the subject. One of his interviewees, Toshifumi Kitazawa, an executive at the giant Tokyo Marine and Fire insurance company, proved to have - as the article put it - “the same sense of crisis as his counterparts abroad.” Kitazawa had no doubt what was afoot. “Behind these events,” he told Asahi, “are the global-scale changes in climate patterns.” In 1991, Typhoon Mireille had involved payments ten times higher than the highest paid for typhoon damage in Japan before. An un-named source in the Japanese Marine & Fire Insurance Association told Asahi that “if more disasters like (Mireille) follow, it could affect the industry’s very existence.”
Posted in Blogs

My hopes for the great global energy transition, and thoughts on the UK state of play: Interview for Impact4All

Screenshot 2018-01-14 08.52.27 Q: How do you feel about the developments at the One Planet Summit in Paris? Was it enough? It wasn’t enough to hit the ultimate Paris Agreement targets, but enough to keep those targets in play. I very much enjoyed the flurry of financial-sector announcements at the summit. If the energy incumbency and its increasingly risk-burdened investors couldn’t see the writing on the wall after all those then they are in very big trouble. My top moment was when the World Bank President announced an end to upstream oil and gas investment from 2019, the assembled dignitaries clapped loudly and protractedly, and many of them actually cheered. I wished every oil company board could have seen that. It was a crystal-clear death knell for their current business models, and indeed for their corporations, if they don’t embrace systemic U-turns rather fast. The rest is here
Posted in Blogs, Interviews

Rogue US can’t derail Bonn agenda as leaders keep the faith

Screenshot 2017-11-21 17.03.00 The US was a marginal presence at a COP23 summit that kept the wind in the sails of global climate action, writes Jeremy Leggett in Recharge Magazine. Busy executives in companies producing and using renewable energy may be wondering what to make of the increasingly detailed negotiations at the latest annual climate summit, held in Bonn over the last fortnight. The bottom line is that an international collaboration of every national government on the planet – save one rogue administration in the shape of the US – remains committed to, and on course for, decarbonisation of the global economy. There has never been a precedent for a megatrend like this in the history of nations. And it blows a strong wind into the sails of the renewables industries. The Paris Agreement on climate changeis a treaty involving two types of pledge. One involves nationally-determined commitments (NDCs) progressively to cut greenhouse gas emissions with the collective aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C at most, with strong collective efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees. These are not legally binding. The other involves a “ratchet” mechanism progressively to tighten those commitments in the years ahead. This is where the legally-binding commitments lie. The ratchet is much needed, because NDCs tabled in Paris fall well short of limiting warming to 2 degrees. Doing that means cutting carbon emissions to net zero. The timetable for the ratchet involves agreeing a rulebook by the end of 2018, countries then revising their NDCs within 2019, and tabling new, lower, pledges in the first half of 2020. That would enable a global stock-take at the climate summit at the end of that year, hopefully with the 1.5-degree target then clear in the collective gunsight. For this to happen, a framework for the rulebook had to be agreed in Bonn, and it was. Beyond this, the summit endorsed a process throughout 2018 that offers a reality check on the adequacy of climate action and explores options for faster action. Many nations deemed this imperative, given the dire catalogue of mega-storms, droughts, wildfires and floods in 2017. Negotiators refer to the process as the “Talanoa dialogue”, after a democractic tradition in Fiji, the country holding the summit presidency in Bonn. (They couldn’t hold it in Fiji as planned because of the horrible impact of a mega-storm there in 2016). This dialogue holds open the prospect of nations acting earlier than 2020, consistent with the generally perceived acceleration of the climate-change threat. In speaking of their commitments and responsibilities at the Bonn summit, key national leaders kept faith with what many governments now routinely refer to as an “irreversible” process. President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, notably, called for greater action. Climate change will determine humanity’s destiny, the German leader said. Twenty-seven nations agreed to accelerate the international phase-out of coal, in an initiative they called “Powering Past Coal”. The Trump administration made feeble attempts to provide a counter view. At a side event, members of their delegation endeavoured to set out a case for continuing and expanding use of coal and other fossil fuels. Most of the audience got up and walked out, many of them singing a protest song. Meanwhile, interestingly, US negotiators did not play the obstructive role in the negotiations that some feared. Non-national actors were also very much in evidence at the summit. Governor of California Jerry Brown and former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg led a coalition of American states, cities, and corporations that have pledged to cut America’s emissions whatever the Trump administration does. This ‘We Are Still In’ initiative spans more than half the US economy and population. Bloomberg compared the US delegation’s push for coal to lobbyists advocating tobacco at a cancer conference. Although the substance of the climate negotiations has meaning, and that is why it is important for them to keep in some kind of step with the rhetoric, there is also a sense in which the negotiations are about the sending of signals into markets that a global energy transition is under way, and that for investors and others to keep faith with the fossil-fuel incumbency is increasingly risky. Markets have increasingly been listening to this, since Paris. Most days we see evidence of this process unfolding, though there is still a long way to go in a world investing more than $700bn a year in fossil fuels while pouring a further $400bn-plus into them as direct subsidies, more than four times the subsidies for renewables. During the summit, the most spectacular example of listening came on the penultimate day. The Norwegian Central Bank, manager of the $1 trillion national (oil-funded) pension fund, told its government that it should divest the fund from oil and gas completely. In the wake of Paris, the fund had long since divested from coal and tar sands. The writing grew clearer on the wall in Bonn.
Posted in Blogs

Explaining Solarcentury’s move this week, and a presentation on solar civilisation and the emerging threats to democracy

Screenshot 2017-11-04 11.17.35 Photo: Solarcentury CEO Frans van den Heuvel Solarcentury entered a long-term strategic partnership with Germany's number one solar park builder, Capital Stage, this week. Together we intend to capitalise and execute 1.1 GW of a 2.5 GW Solarcentury project pipeline, in 5 countries, an undertaking requiring capital of £0.8 billion to £1 billion over the next 2-3 years, of which the first tranche of some hundreds of millions is done. We have a roadmap in mind well beyond this 1.1 GW. Solarcentury's Dutch CEO Frans van den Heuvel was architect of this Anglo-German deal. He and his exec team, not least CFO Neil Perry, have been working hard on it for months now. It is a transformative move that leaves Solarcentury, as an international Independent Power Producer, well positioned to make a big difference in the world using solar, and indeed other clean energy technologies beyond the original imaginings of the founder. I am deeply grateful to the existing team, the alumni from past teams, investors current and past, and indeed all stakeholders of all kinds who have helped make this step change possible for us. What particularly thrills me is that the company now has space to build on our track record in innovation, including with the kinds of product mixes and strategies that are leading the way as digitalisation sweeps across energy markets. Building on this new partnership, and others not least with IKEA on solar and storage, we can now do a lot of good in the world. For those with the appetite for a bit more detail, Frans does a great job of explaining further in an interview for Business Green. On the wider context, on 22nd November I will be giving my first public presentation on the interface between the fast emerging solar civilisation and the equally if not faster emerging threat to liberal democracy. I will be considering how solarisation, in its broadest sense, can contribute to the dismantling of that threat and in the process help to build a much-needed new global common security regime. The talk is in London, and do please consider coming if you are in the city. There will be plenty of time for discussion in the hall, and in a nearby hostelry afterwards. For those not in London, the presentation will be up on the website the next day, and as ever I’ll be on e-mail for any questions.
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The conundrum deepens – big solar deployment rises yet faster, small solar falls still further: chapter 4 of The Test

Screenshot 2017-10-31 15.22.29 Paramount Pictures, West London, 16th August 2017 A private screening of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Sequel. We are ten years on from the release of his original blockbuster, An Inconvenient Truth. The new film tells the story of that decade, and the race against time that it represents for those with eyes to see. Some fifty people sit in a small cinema in a modern office block on an architect’s dream of a corporate campus. Many of the attendees are heads of sustainability from big companies. I have not been looking forward to this screening. I know how good a job the great man does of explaining the horrors of climate change, but I can do without dwelling too much on how bad the bad news is these days. As an ex researcher of earth history, I figure I have a passable appreciation of how fast the meltdown of our climate is progressing, and for some years now I have preferred to focus more on the solutions. When you are in a race in which the stakes include a liveable planet, I figure, it can be bad for your concentration to watch too closely how fast your opponent is running. So, fortified with a large glass of wine, I watch the Arctic melting before my eyes, the streets of Miami waist deep in water, Indian pedestrians quagmired on roads that are literally melting, Filipinos frantically smashing a ceiling to escape onto their roof as flood waters rise, and much else in the same vein. And I ask myself, as I always do, how the denialists can have been so very blind for so very long, in the face of all this. I know what the neuroscientists tell us about how human brains work, and how deep in metaphorical concrete we tend to encase our belief systems. Yet still, as the science of climate disruption moves from predictions made to predictions exceeded, the extent of the denial never ceases to amaze me. You can read the rest here, with the new chapter 4 being a 10 minute read: The-Test-chapters1-4.
Posted in Blogs

A view under the bonnet: chapter 3 of The Test.

Cambridge, UK, 31st July 2017 I land at Heathrow, take a train into London and then another to Cambridge. I have occasional sessional teaching duties at the University, with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). CISL is widely known for running HRH The Prince of Wales’s Business & Sustainability Programme for business executives, and other advanced courses in sustainability leadership for business groups, tailored to individual company needs. CISL also runs part-time graduate programmes for business professionals, including the Master’s in Sustainability Leadership. My job today is to give the Master’s students a one-hour overview of the state of play in the global energy transition. I run through my slide show, updated overnight on the flight from Johnannesburg, trying not to let my tiredness show. The class is 30 mid-career to senior people doing an intense residential week towards their degrees in Sustainability Leadership. They are from the USA, Europe, Australasia, the Middle East and Africa. They represent companies including Accenture, BT, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, HSBC, IKEA, KPMG, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble, and Unilever. The first three questioners all thank me for lifting their spirits with the positivity of my analysis. I wonder if I have overcooked it. I resisted the temptation to talk about The Test in my hour. I do so now, in synopsis. My optimism is qualified, with a small Q, I say. We have to fix this little aberration of solar lights versus kerosene lamps first. You can read the rest here.

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Winner of awards including Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation
Winner of awards including BITC Unilever Global Development Award