For Grégoire de Pierpont, CEO Enerdeal, the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine must serve as an accelerator for change. To (finally) do without gas and oil and turn to renewables. “It’s not impossible.” The world we live in today is complicated and stressful. We are affected both humanly, but also economically, by what is happening all over the world. There is the war in Ukraine, the economic crisis, the inflation, the health crisis, but also the environmental crisis. The forecasts in this direction are not encouraging. The latest IPCC report is clear. We should reach +1.5°C in 2030, ten years earlier than the last estimate, which dated from 2018. Currently, the planet is at +1.1°C. A disaster.
The crisis must be an accelerator of change
However, I want to believe that what we are going through can also be an opportunity to do things differently. The Covid period was a first missed opportunity. Remember, we were talking about a world before and a world after, where man would become aware of the world around him. And finally, the world after and the world before remained the same. Very few lessons have been learned from these two years of crisis. The war in Ukraine and its consequences should make us understand that moments of crisis can be accelerators of change. One of the greatest current challenges concerns environmental transition. And there is urgency.
Today, Europe is trying to buy elsewhere what it buys from Russia. She turns to Qatar, the USA and Norway. What a historical error. While it is obvious that we must quickly find an alternative solution to our Russian dependence, it must be temporary and transitional. It is not the supplier that needs to be changed, but the model!
We must put an end to fossil fuels, because the excessive use we make of them is annihilating our planet
We must, at European level, but also at Belgian and regional level, have an ambitious transition plan where solar and wind power are at the heart of energy solutions. This must be a top priority. We must put an end to fossil fuels, because the excessive use we make of them is annihilating our planet. India and Pakistan suffer from historic heat (up to 50-55°) which exceeds the limit of human survival. And this is not an epiphenomenon. No, this part of the world which is home to 1.5 billion people could, according to NASA, become uninhabitable for humans by 2050. Who can foresee the global imbalance that would result from the migration of a billion people?
And yet the solutions exist to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. What is missing is the will to deploy them quickly and at scale. The necessary investments are significant, but appear derisory compared to the prospect of leaving an uninhabitable world to our children. These solutions are essentially based on solar energy and wind energy, both of which are renewable, local and available in abundance. A massive deployment of these energies combined with the electrification of consumers (electric cars, heat pumps, etc.) will make it possible to replace most of our consumption of fossil fuels. The other major advantage of this transition is that, unlike a gas or nuclear power plant, the energy produced by a solar or wind power plant becomes almost free once the initial investment has been paid off! The environmental advantage is thus combined with a long-term economic advantage.
To illustrate the impact of this replacement, the total annual electricity consumption in Belgium (84 TWh/year) could be entirely produced by a solar power plant occupying a square of 25 km on each side. Considerable, but not unrealistic, provided that this surface is spread over a large number of smaller locations (company roofs, car parks, ground power stations, etc.). Another example, the entire fleet of company cars in Belgium (650,000 cars each traveling 30,000 km/year), once replaced by electric cars, could be entirely powered by a 5 km side solar power plant. Solar and wind power plants will have to be associated with large capacities for short-term (batteries) and long-term (hydrogen) storage, to overcome the intermittent nature of production. The change is significant, but the technical solutions to achieve this change are available today.
Ready for change?
A large number of financial and industrial players are ready to assume their responsibilities and invest massively in these technologies, as soon as the legal and regulatory framework allows it. This transition will also create a large number of skilled jobs and contribute to the development of a new local economy. The technical and financial resources are available to accelerate this transition and avoid that in 20 years, our children will reproach us for not having had the courage to take the necessary actions while there was still time to do so. Let us mobilize, take the decisions that we can take at our level and demand that our decision-makers take the necessary actions to prepare our future! Grégoire de Pierpont, CEO Enerdeal