Embracing new frontiers: previewing the 23rd Triennial World Energy Congress

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Thursday, 23 June 2016 01:05 GMT

Hasan Murat Mercan, Head of the Organizing Committee of the World Energy Congress

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“With 23% of the World Energy Council comprised of African membership, the continent is increasingly emerging as a major player in the world energy market,” explained Hasan Murat Mercan, Head of the Organizing Committee of the World Energy Congress. In an interview, we discussed the evolution of the congress, themes and issues to be covered this year, trends in alternative energy, achieving the sustainable development goals as they relate to energy access, and much more.

Hasan Murat Mercan is a founding member and deputy chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey. From 2007 until 2011, Mr. Mercan was Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. He held the position of Deputy Minister of Energy & Natural Resources.

Tell me a little bit about the World Energy Congress and how it's evolved over the years to be one of the world's most important platforms for dialogue and discussion on all-things energy.

The World Energy Congress, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey from October 9 to 13, is one of the most prominent and inclusive gatherings of senior leaders in the energy industry. Ministers from around the world, as well as CEOs and industry experts will all be in attendance to facilitate dialogue on the most acute and critical energy concerns.

The 23rd Triennial World Energy Congress will host debate and conversation on shaping the future of the energy market and meeting sustainable development goals in the aftermath of the COP21 Paris agreement.

The Congress’ location, in Turkey, is synonymous with the overall theme of Embracing New Frontiers. With its position in the Southern Corridor, Turkey bridges Europe and some of the world’s most important energy supply routes and sources, and continues to provide a robust and significant voice on all key regional energy debates. 

This year, what kinds of themes will be front and center at the convening? 

The underlying theme of this year’s congress is “Embracing New Frontiers.” It will consider how the industry and government can work together to facilitate a transition to a low-carbon economy and a sustainable energy system. 

The Congress, with over 200 already confirmed speakers, will uphold its tradition of creating a forum for discussion and debate and will tackle the most pressing and difficult issues facing the industry head-on.

Each day of the Congress has been assigned a theme. Day 1 will contemplate the vision and scenarios for the future. Day two will focus on identifying business opportunities, resources and technologies. Day 3 will focus on the Energy Trilemma, and day 4 will focus on Africa and its role in securing a stable energy future.

The congress will address key topics including the commodity price storm, uncertainty in the CO2 price, dynamism in renewables, the grand transition and regional and global integration, including the integration of China and India into international energy institutions.

As you survey the energy sector more broadly, and in particular alternative energy such as solar, what kinds of trends are you noticing?

By developing upon the theme of Embracing New Frontiers, and exploring new solutions and technologies within the industry, the Congress will facilitate discussions on topics including decarbonisation and the Grand Transition, as well as scaling up global renewables and next generation biofuels.

One continent which is rising in prominence within discussions on the energy industry is Africa. With 23% of the World Energy Council comprised of African membership, the continent is increasingly emerging as a major player in the world energy market and the Congress will seek to explore the opportunities which align themselves with this transition. 

For instance, a session will look at the role of natural gas and LNG markets in Africa. Africa’s oil and gas resources have for a long time attracted a broad spectrum of investors, while today Africa is emerging as a major player in natural gas markets. The region’s developments in natural gas and LNG hold enormous potential for economic and social development. The session will reflect on what the region’s expectations and potential are for natural gas and whether Africa’s LNG exports can be a game changer. 

What worries you the most when it comes to the future of energy? 

The World Energy Issues Monitor, now in its seventh year, is an annual survey of global industry leaders by the World Energy Council that keeps tabs on the concerns of over 1000 global energy leaders. 

Issues highlighted by leaders in the 2016 report, issued in March, included key priorities such as boosting non-fossil fuels, renewables and energy storage, as well as the energy-water nexus; i.e. challenges over access to water sources shaping the decisions on projects by the industry.

The report’s findings provide information for leaders and policymakers in some 100 countries, and mould the framework for dialogue at the upcoming Congress. 

When you look at the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, goal 7 talks about ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. How are you thinking about this topic in the context of the upcoming convening in Istanbul?

This is one thing that the World Energy Congress will certainly address. Balancing the Trilemma, of which Environmental Sustainability is a core pillar, is one of the major aspirations of the Congress. There will be a number of sessions at the Congress which focus on the transition to renewables and low-carbon energy. 

One of the key topics up for debate at the Congress, in the trail of the COP21 Conference held in December 2015, is how the industry can lead the way to achieve sustainable development goals and forge the frame of the industry moving forward. The congress will consider topics including the grand transition and the shift to a low-carbon energy future.

For example, on Monday, the first day of the Congress, there will be a debate on nuclear power, while the second day of the Congress will feature a discussion on hydrocarbons. 

Building off the previous question, how important is the private sector when you think about how we are going to achieve goal 7 by 2030? 

Very important. The private sector will be vital in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; be it by funding innovative technologies or working with governments to ensure that they have access to an affordable and clean energy mix. I would go so far as to say that even though a favourable regulatory environment is necessary, Goal 7 will not be met without the agency of the private sector.

The World Energy Congress is the triennial flagship event of the World Energy Council. It has gained recognition since the first event in 1924 as the premier global forum for leaders and thinkers to debate solutions to energy issues. Learn more.