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We can't have locally clean and globally dirty practices: Angela Wilkinson

Dr. Angela Wilkinson, the first woman Secretary-General of the World Energy Council, strongly believes in the multiplicity of technologies and innovations to optimize the share of clean energy in the overall energy mix. "We think that it will require a mix of clean electrons and clean molecules in order to be reliable and affordable to all societies," said Angela in an exclusive interview with Devdiscourse on the sidelines of the 24th World Energy Congress 2019 in Abu Dhabi. Read the Full Interview. 

Siddheshwar  ShuklaSiddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 28-09-2019 10:24 IST | Created: 23-09-2019 18:38 IST
We can't have locally clean and globally dirty practices: Angela Wilkinson
Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Secretary-General of the World Energy Council Image Credit: World Energy Council

The 24th World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi has created many firsts. Though the decision of the World Energy Council to hold its 24th Congress in Abu Dhabi itself was the first in the Middle East, the most talked-about first was the appointment of a woman energy leader as the first Secretary-General of the Council. The ICC Plenary Hall of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC) echoed with the thunderous applause of the global energy leaders as the outgoing Chair of the Council – Mr. Younghoon David Kim, announced the appointment of Dr. Angela Wilkinson as it's 7th Secretary-General.

Angela holds a Ph.D. in physics and has experience of providing strategic advisory of services to leaders in government, business, and civil society for over 25 years including the large, international, and multi-stakeholder initiatives. Her work spans over 40 countries, 100 futures projects, three books and many articles on using future methods to face global and complex challenges.

Before reaching the top administrative position, Angela was holding the prestigious position of Senior Director of Scenarios and Business Insights with the Council. She is credited to supervising the prestigious reports of the Council released in Abu Dhabi - World Energy Scenarios 2019 and World Energy Trilemma Index 2019. Welcoming Angela, the new Chair of the Council Mr. Jean Marie Dauger in his first speech said, "Angela will be the first woman to manage our organization which is now approaching 100 years of age. We look forward to you Angela as we continue to promote sustainable energy for all,".

Dev discourse catches up with Dr.Angela Wilkinson on the sidelines of the 24th World Energy Congress. In the exclusive interview, with Siddheshwar Shukla, Associate Editor, Devdiscourse she shares her views on various aspects of world energy scenario, energy transition and Trilemma Index. The Edited Excerpts:

Siddheshwar Shukla: What are the major findings of the World Energy Trilemma Index 2019?

Dr. Angela Wilkinson: The 2019 Index is the 10th annual index that we have issued. We actually provide information for the last 20 years. In this index, you will find not just the global ranking but also year on year performance of different countries in terms of policy performance. The index has three major elements - energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. And, it has been designed to help governments think about how they balance policy so that they achieve not just energy security or equity or sustainability but all three at once. So this year you can find the global ranking, each country's profile and you can also look at the year on year performance of every country.

Siddheshwar: How do you think the World Energy Trilemma Index will be helpful in achieving the goals of the World Energy Council?

Angela: So, the Trilemma Index allows governments to take stock of where they are in the energy transition. It allows them to think about – Are they making progress? And, are they making enough progress? And, how do they compare with their peers?

We recognize that every country is unique. That there's no one size fits all solution. But even so, countries need to learn with and from each other. In terms of how they can manage this - energy security, equity and environmental sustainability challenge. So, governments use energy Trilemma in a number of different ways. They use them to enable them to have conversations with their societies about what's involved in good energy policymaking. They can use them to have conversations between different ministries because you can't achieve energy security, equity, and sustainability without thinking about transport or industry or buildings these days. And, they can use that also to think about how do they benchmark that performance with different countries and how can they engage with the private sector in the challenges of promoting more progress.

Siddheshwar: World Energy Council emphasizes on clean energy and energy transition under the movement - beyond hydrocarbons, however, there are countries where the entire economy is dependent on hydrocarbons. What is your message for those countries which are dependent on hydrocarbons to run their economy?

Angela: Our message is - all technologies and innovation will be required to manage a successful global energy transition. Everybody (every country) might not go from coal to solar, in one step. We say that it depends on the country. Countries have to start from where they are and they have to move to where they can get to. And we think that getting from here to the future will require not just clean electrons but also clean molecules.

We think that it's not just about the new energy technologies, it's also about incumbent innovators. So when we use the word innovation we don't just mean renewable startups. We also mean the clean molecules and initiatives that are starting around the world not just hydrogen but also ammonia. We are also saying gas plus CCW. We say new developments in nuclear. So we think that all technologies and innovation will be required to ensure that we have clean energy access for everyone, anytime and anywhere.

Siddheshwar: As you also mentioned solar energy as clean energy but now, researchers say, it is producing hazardous solar waste. Is the World Energy Council working for better technology in the field of clean energy?

Angela: With new innovations and technologies everyone can do better. Solar technology, of course, has been phenomenal as price decreases. We see utility-scale solar as well. But even with utility-scale solar you still have to think about where do you get all the equipment and components from, what does that mean for mining, what does it mean for resource security and what does it mean for the entire value chain. So, global value chains will matter in enabling a sustainable energy future for everybody.

We can't have locally clean and globally dirty practices; that's just not going to be very useful. So, clean energy means looking at the whole system and looking at the whole supply chain and making good choices about how do we continue to make progress. And we think that it will require a mix of clean electrons and clean molecules in order to be reliable and affordable to all societies.

Siddheshwar: What are your expectations from the 24th World Energy Congress?

Angela: What do I hope will happen! We come here to share what we've been learning for the last three years. We come here to promote that we have a very practical energy transition leaders' toolkit which is open for everybody to use. And, we come here to form new impact partnerships and build our community. We are a worldwide community. We operate in nearly 100 different countries around the world. We believe, we can move faster if we learn with and from each other. We also believe that we're not here to tell the world what it should be doing about energy, we are here to enable it to achieve better things.

Thank you

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