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World Energy Congress 2013 begins in Daegu

As delegates arrive in Daegu, Damon Evans weighs up the issues topping the agenda at the World Energy Congress 2013

More than 5,000 delegates from more than 100 countries are gathering in Daegu, South Korea’s green growth capital, to discuss the critical issues facing the industry under the theme Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today at the 22nd World Energy Congress (WEC) this week.

WEC Daegu 2013 marks only the second time in the event’s 90 years that it will be held in East Asia, part of the world’s most dynamic energy market.

Led by China and India, along with Southeast Asia, the centre of gravity of the global energy system is fast shifting to Asia.

Energy consumption is expanding more quickly in the Asia-Pacific region than in any other part of the world, as its economies surge forward.

However, Asia’s prolonged economic boom has depended on cheap oil prices. But when crude surged in 2008, approaching $150 per barrel, the region felt at first hand just how vulnerable it was to oil price shocks.

Since then, the nuclear power crisis in Japan, as well as increasingly volatile oil markets, have combined to lend a greater urgency to the need to ensure energy security. Not just in Asia, but across the globe. At the same time, the impending threat of climate change needs urgent attention.

As demand for energy snowballs, the important issues for Asia, as well as the rest of the world, are; how can we conserve energy and use it more efficiently? Can renewable energy become the world’s green gold? And will efforts to mitigate climate change affect access to future energy sources?

Many Asian countries have integrated the concept of sustainable energy – otherwise known as green energy – into their national visions. And delegates will have the opportunity to hear what is going on in the region, which holds half of the world’s population and shows signs of rapid green energy growth.

But despite proposed energy efficiency initiatives, many of which will be discussed, global energy demand is still projected to double by 2050. The world’s energy leaders face an enormous challenge to meet this demand.

This week those leaders together with delegates will voice their ideas and seek solutions to the challenges facing the industry. Will shale gas and oil provide the answer or will it be the untapped potential of hydro? Where do the new frontiers fit in?

Aside from shale gas and tight oil, shale oil has big potential. There are also opportunities for methane hydrates, deep-water fields, heavy oil and Arctic exploration, to consider.

But not forgetting the world must cut its addiction to fossil fuels, which are largely responsible for climate change. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) must be slashed by 50% in order to stop global temperatures rising to risky levels. 

Transportation, one of the world’s fastest expanding energy-demand segments, driven by China and India, is a big culprit. It makes up 23% of global CO2 emissions, almost half of which come from cars.

At the Congress, delegates will hear about the prospects for the transition to a low-carbon economy. Alternative fuels, electrification of transport and fuel efficiency are some of the areas that could cut the carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, attendees will also discuss whether today’s markets and technologies can deliver tomorrow’s energy.

Indeed, the globalisation of energy demand poses a number of challenges, coined the “energy trilemma” by the World Energy Council, the sponsor of the Congress.

This week policy makers and industry leaders will be seeking solutions that will allow them to balance energy security, environmental, as well as social objectives.

But in order to maintain and replace existing energy systems, as well as meet growing energy demand and climate objectives, significant investment is needed. To the tune of around $45 trillion – or half the world’s gross domestic product – over the next 20 years. The market alone cannot solve these problems. All this and a lot more will be discussed at WEC Daegu 2013.

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