Nurturing a better energy future

24 May 2021
Collaboration between industry, government and academia is one of the most effective ways to secure our energy future, says Heriot-Watt Dubai’s Tadhg O’Donovan

With fossil fuels accounting for close to 84 per cent of global energy consumption, according to BP’s 2020 edition of the Statistical Review of World Energy, it is essential for energy stakeholders – from governments to industry and academia – to collaborate and work towards a greener future.

Rising populations, coupled with rapid urbanisation, have increased the load on energy systems substantially. Our global need for electricity is set to rise by more than half by 2040, growing twice as fast as overall energy use while powering massive infrastructures worldwide.

Creating a better energy future requires collaborative partnerships to be established between public institutions, academia and individuals who can offer the best solutions to tackle future energy challenges.

The future energy talent pool

Educational institutions need to prepare the talent pool of graduates across sectors to address the energy problem. Renewable energy integration will require innovative technical, economic and social expertise. With global demand for natural gas set to increase by 29 per cent by 2040, it is up to the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs and specialists to develop novel energy solutions. all future hydrocarbon production projects to reach 2050 net-zero goals, says International Energy Agency

Students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels should have the opportunity to engage with industry to focus their efforts and project work on developing solutions for real-world energy problems. University programmes such as Heriot-Watt University Dubai’s master's of science degree in global sustainability engineering can help support students in bridging the gap between raw innovation and marketable products and processes.

Research programmes are also an effective mechanism to collaborate and convert knowledge from the laboratory into real-life industrial applications. Universities can also play a significant role in supporting students and burgeoning enterprises on the entrepreneurial journey, by providing enterprise centres and innovation hubs where technical and business expertise is offered outside of the traditional curricula. supports industry reform

Infrastructure and research-based investments are required to establish and promote successful collaboration between industry bodies, governments and institutions. Focused investment on clean energy and consumption management is likely to yield the most impact in countries with historically lower levels of research and development (R&D).

While educators support students to become graduates with an aptitude for innovation, universities and research centres need to build ties with public and private entities for greater collaboration. Promoting clean energy also requires access to quality networks and infrastructure, especially within growth nations.

Public sector initiatives

Government investment in start-ups, accelerators and enterprises that are actively working within the clean energy space would initiate a virtuous cycle of innovation and drive greater results for nations while enabling them to achieve climate goals and clean energy objectives.

It is also vital for public sector leaders, across nations, to collaborate on finding the best solutions to scale-driven challenges. Learnings from Middle Eastern nations about building green cities should hold as hallmark references and examples for growth economies such as India and China. Increased communication and connectivity between international public sector bodies will also drive greater innovation within the space.

A critical example of this is the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Headquartered in the UAE, it is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence and a repository of policy, technology, resources and financial knowledge on renewable energy.

Public sector bodies also play a significant role in the scaling of clean energy initiatives within nationwide infrastructure grids. It is important that growing nations focus on clean energy sources and infrastructure, to help sustain their rising demand for energy, which is why government bodies need to develop scalable infrastructure solutions. By leveraging legal, economical and policy-based initiatives, the public sector can spur innovation within the energy sector at scale.

Industry drives high-tech energy solutions

Clean energy enterprises are vital to commercialising clean technology, enabling theoretically developed projects to scale up to tackle infrastructure challenges. Industry bodies, organisations, start-ups and specialists are adopting innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and Internet of Things to help lower the cost of clean energy and better manage our energy grids. converts bio-waste into plastic-alternative products

By working closely with universities and public sector bodies, enterprises can ensure capital flow and provide a scalable platform for new solutions to thrive on. The transfer of knowledge and technology from universities to the commercial sector can be successfully driven through strategic partnerships with industry leaders and financial institutions.

By leveraging legal, economical and policy-based initiatives, the public sector can spur innovation within the energy sector at scale.

In addition, private sector bodies can help lower our overall reliance on traditional energy sources. Within trade and logistics, fossil fuel driven infrastructures can be replaced with renewable sources in the next few decades.

Our office buildings and commercial zones, which account for a significant portion of our energy use, can also be made more efficient through renewable strategies. Several private sector strategies can help to improve our energy consumption, thereby helping to create a better energy infrastructure for future generations.

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