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Adopting a similar global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, standardization, cross-collaboration, digitalization and diversity are the key factors in meeting climate targets, industry experts suggested on the first day of DNV GL’s Transition Faster: Let’s Talk Wind conference.
In the opening panel session of the three-day event, C-suite leaders from the energy industry around the world discussed what changes are needed to transition faster to a clean decarbonized energy future. Ahead of the panel session, Ditlev Engel, CEO of DNV GL’s newly formed business unit Energy Systems gave his keynote speech which provided an insight into the company’s new business unit focused on decarbonizing the energy system.
In discussing what leaders in industry and society must do to speed up the energy transition, Remi Eriksen Group President & CEO, DNV GL said: “We all share a common responsibility to act urgently and cannot underestimate the scale of the challenge in front of us. We believe that the pandemic reduced carbon emissions by roughly eight percent in 2020. To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, we need to achieve the same amount of emission reductions every year, over the next thirty years, and we must do that without the enormous costs to lives and livelihoods.”
Wind pioneer Andrew Garrad, one of the founders of Garrad Hassan which is now part of DNV GL, agreed that the pandemic should be a catalyst for the energy transition. He said: “The pandemic has displaced climate change as the major issue. If you look at what governments and other organizations have done to react to COVID-19, there have been difficult and firm measures taken and people have accepted these as they recognize that something needed to be done urgently. The problem we have always had with climate change is that many did not recognize the severity of the issue. If we agree that climate change is the most pressing issue for our globe, then we should act in the same way as we did with COVID-19. It may be unpopular in some places, but we need to see action.”
DNV GL is the global leader in cross-industry collaboration projects, which produce recommended practices, qualification of new technologies or establishing industry standards. All of which improve industry performance and drive down costs. The ACE Joint Industry Project, which was highlighted in the second session of the morning, is a point in case for a successful collaboration and openness about sharing data in order to transition faster, particularly in emerging markets that were once challenging in these areas.
In discussing cross-collaboration, Sheri Hickok, CEO of GE Renewable Energy’s Onshore Wind Business in Asia reflected on her experience in the automotive industry. She said: “The automotive industry has gone through cycles of improving and optimizing with implications to cost and access to transportation. As an OEM in the wind industry, we are looking at how we take those learnings from the automotive industry through platforming, supply and regulatory partnerships to advance wind faster at a lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to help speed up the energy transition. We can learn from the industries of the past to see what has been done and try to apply those rather than trying to learn everything ourselves.”
Remi Eriksen added: “I believe the only way to make floating offshore wind successful is through cross-industry collaboration. We need to lean heavily on the offshore experience gained from the oil and gas sector and blend this with the experience of power producers, vessel owners, OEMs and construction yards to name a few. Floating offshore wind is still a novel technology and very expensive, so standardization and cross-collaboration across industry sectors are extremely important to get that moving.”
There was agreement that to speed up the transition, a digital transformation in technology and mindset will be required. The wind industry is poised to deliver ‘living wind farms’ with energy production prediction, automated monitoring and inspections of assets, using drones.
The panel also discussed diversity and inclusion, where it was agreed that organizations need to find and grow talent with different backgrounds, skills, colors and create an open culture of collaboration where talent feels free to share opinions and dare to present their ideas.
Sheri Hickock talked up the importance of ‘accountability’ and the diversity targets she has set her team at GE through recruitment, while Elbia Gannoum, CEO of ABEEólica – the Brasilian Wind Association and Vice Chair of the GWEC board explained the shift in perceptions for female leaders across 20 years in the energy sector and how the transition can benefit developing countries.
She said: “In Brazil, I have been working hard to raise the issue of diversity and it is progressing, with many of the energy companies leading the way. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), of which I am the Vice Chair on the Board, has a very important program and mentorship for women in global leadership positions in the wind industry. However, we need to increase the speed of diversity and also ensure we create a just transition for all. Both in Brazil and around the world, the energy transition is a big opportunity for us to transform society and improve conditions for the people who need it.”
In addressing the challenges that lie ahead, Sheri Hickok was positive that the industry would rise to meet them: “I am sure we will solve these problems, the issue for me is how quickly we can come together to do it. There are two factors to consider with wind. One piece is technology and driving down costs while the other is connecting it and having stable electricity when we need it. We need to look at how we can operate grids as a system instead of being transactional. If we can think broader, we can find more flexibility in those solutions to bring more renewables to the grid, faster.”