Eon chief executive Johannes Teyssen says the energy sector must change the narrative on climate change, minimise costs of decarbonisation and start working on today’s challenges instead of trying to design perfect long-term solutions.
Much of the heavy lifting, he suggested, can be done by better use of existing power grid infrastructure.
Speaking at Aurora’s Spring Forum, Teyssen warned that negative public perception of climate stabilisation measures could spark civil unrest if people are not engaged and costs run unchecked.
“People want subsidies for this, for that. But the state is [the wallet of] the private person. We need to respect that.”
The conference earlier highlighted Aurora projections that in the UK alone 60TWh of seasonal storage and/or flexibility may be required under a net zero scenario.
Teyssen acknowledged the scale of the challenge, but urged sharper resolve on making immediate progress than perfecting long-term solutions.
“Why focus on ‘unknown unknowns’ if there are so many areas we can tackle first?” said Teyssen, suggesting that power grid utilisation is the best place to start.
“Most of the solution is in the grid,” he said, “not generation.”
Electrifying transport, Teyssen thinks, could deliver wins for the power system and for consumers: cars can remove excess power from the system when required and enable a greater number of units of electricity to be used within existing infrastructure, driving down unit costs.
Teyssen believes the need for 60TWh seasonal storage is “about two decades out”.
“We can look at that and use it as a scapegoat, or focus on the problems of the coming decade and start today.”
Audrey Zibelman, chief executive officer at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), seconded that view. She said unexploited assets could be better utilised to managed “deep bellied ducks” (the curve between peak demand and available renewable resource – so called because it looks like a duck).
“There are solutions; you can make demand a primary resource to follow generation as opposed to generation following demand,” she said. “So maximise what we have … Then look at what we need going forward.”
Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president, Marketing, Midstream & Processing at Norway’s Equinor (formerly Statoil), disagreed.
“It does take time to solve long term issues – and it is the responsibility of companies like ourselves to spend some time solving them,” she said.
“Somebody has to do it.”