The Trends Influencing The Energy Industry at ONS
We returned to ONS this month following a Covid-induced break and a virtual exhibition in 2020. The exhibition packed a punch with its line-up from Billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk, to the Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy live from Kyiv, and the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon, and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
Over 1,000 speakers and 1,000 stands were involved in the exhibition, which was themed on “Trust” with some of the biggest names in the industry taking their time to share insights and propose new solutions to energy transition as well as what’s needed to address the ongoing energy security crisis in Europe.
Highlights from ONS 2022
What makes ONS truly special is the unique mix of a very dynamic exhibition, the high-level ONS Conference, and the many venues with smaller conference sessions.
Those attending enjoyed the opportunity to communicate in person and discuss, debate and propose solutions to the current dual complexity of achieving a sustainable future and meeting growing energy demands.
The theme of the exhibition reflected the diversity of views about the future of the energy sector. ONS 2022 had an air of optimism and enthusiasm about the prospect of containing the impact of climate change and also on how net zero could be achieved. But there were also notes of caution, particularly on the prospects for energy security in a divided world where trust in the major energy producing companies has been diminished.
Energy security is a geopolitical issue as events in Ukraine have shown. The insecurities involved can be managed through cooperation, but they cannot be eliminated. The world’s reliance on hydrocarbons will persist for some considerable time to come.
But even as that reliance levels out and is eventually overtaken by the transition to a lower carbon world the concentration of resources – of hydrocarbons and of the minerals required for decarbonisation - will ensure that energy security can only be restored if there is cooperation between nations. Until trust is restored energy security will remain fragile with the energy market fragmented and volatile.
The gap between aspirations and reality showed that although COP26 set high ambitions for the delivery of net zero by the time ONS 2022 kicked off it was clear that the transition has barely begun.
Oil, gas and coal use will still be meeting 80% of global energy needs – and potentially rising – as the global economy tries to move on from a Covid-induced recession and further volatility in the energy market created through the war in Ukraine.
But as Europe pushes forward due to both security issues and climate change, the situation is quite different around the world. The result is therefore an inherently unstable situation and one that needs to be approached from a balanced perspective to not only meet the needs of the present but to continue to build for the future by bringing people together to look for practical solutions and a common way forward.
While ONS 2022 was a successful event in terms of sharing information and ideas, it got us thinking... what set of actions are more likely to lead to a better future?
Often maligned energy producing companies might help their cause by coming together and showing the world what they are collectively doing today and planning for tomorrow. By better communicating the significant role they are playing and the collective impact they are having on global sustainability efforts it may create a different tone and one which can help foster better collaboration and trust.
In recognition of the great opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, it is perhaps fitting to close with a quote from Elon Musk, Tesla founder and SpaceX chief said, “I don’t tend to demonise oil and gas. These are necessary right now if civilisation is going to function. At this point in time, I actually think we need more oil and gas, not less... but simultaneously moving as fast as we can to a sustainable energy economy”.
We therefore have a responsibility to supply energy today whilst simultaneously planning to evolve for a low carbon, sustainable future.
Given everything which has happened over the last year, a degree of uncertainty is always inevitable. We cannot know the future but as many of the discussions and sessions stressed much of that future will be shaped by the choices to be made by those who attended ONS 2022 – in their various roles across business, Government, academia or wider society.