What I Took Away From the Doha Clean Energy Forum

Returned on Friday (11 October) from four days in Doha where I participated in the final annual Global Clean Energy Forum sponsored by the International Herald Tribune (IHT). In the future IHT will be known as the International New York Times.


The Forum organizers put together an excellent set of international speakers on a broad range of clean energy issues, including fracking gas and it’s impact on investments in renewables, energy technology innovation, sustainable energy in Arab and developing countries, carbon capture and sequestration, and perspectives of the financial community on investments in renewable energy. The agenda can be found at http://www.inytcleanenergy.com/2013-agenda.asps.

Some of my take-aways are the following:

– shale gas from fracking is seen as a definite part of future energy supplies and will be considered ‘complimentary’ to other natural gas supplies such as those from the large reserves in Qatar.
– the availability of relatively low cost, large shale gas supplies will affect the pace of investments in renewable energy technologies.
– the fact that water and energy issues are ‘inextricably linked’ is gaining wider acceptance but is still not routinely mentioned in discussions of energy supplies.
– global investment in deployment of renewables is increasing, but the pace of investment will have its ups and downs, with national policies being a critical determining factor in these early days.
– transportation will be an important future market for fuel cell and other forms of green electricity.
– there is much opportunity and need for innovation in clean energy technologies, with a corresponding need for appropriate incentives.
– The United Nations is finally on board with the need for greater attention to energy issues in sustainable development (there were no energy goals in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals).
– The financial community sees solar energy as the best bet for future renewable energy investments. De-risking clean energy investments is a critical need in funding decisions.
– three speakers made a strong case for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a means of addressing global warming and climate change, especially in heavily carbon emitting industries such as cement production. Lots of questions remain, and will be discussed in a future blog.


Ron D. White

It is a good thing that there were no energy goals in the MDG.

The MDG shows broad problems to solve. To be rational, energy policy papers will look at the MDG as creating or emphasizing markets for energy technologies. The relevant question is what do the potential markets look like and/or what are the markets that can be rationally defined.

Productive uses of energy are what matter to the MDG goals. Energy producing firms that look to national governments as the market for their potential product output are not focused on the people in developing nations. Running a power line from a huge hydro facility to the site of a future copper mine views colonialism as the market and ignores the people the MDG deals with. The whole purpose is to shift the focus to the needs of the residents, not the producers of energy technologies.

The pace of investment in RE and the link with water (above)are substantial indicators the essential need to shift the focus. Externally created markets are external to development.


I don’t disagree with Ron’s point that energy developments should be focused on end-user needs rather than the needs of energy producers. This reflects a general principle in development – focus on what is needed at the local level and get buy-in from the local community. My only point in mentioning the UN’s increased attention to energy issues is that energy is critical to meeting sustainability needs – e.g., potable water – and the UN had devoted insufficient attention to energy issues in the past. It reminds me of another organization concerned with economic development in developing nations, USAID, which, for a while, also paid limited attention to energy issues even while it was aggressively addressing clean water availability issues.