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Shell Foundation chairman says sustainable development best served by breakthrough technology and innovation

26 June 2015

Speaking as the 2015 recipient of the Energy Institute (EI)'s Cadman Award, Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng FEI, Chairman, Shell Foundation, has called for increased focus on breakthrough technology and business innovations to respond to the challenges of international development, climate change and urbanisation - while meeting the world's growing demand for energy.

Malcolm Brinded - Image: Shell Foundation
Malcolm Brinded - Image: Shell Foundation

Addressing 180 energy professionals in London, he said, 'Today five billion people consume less than one third of the world’s energy, whilst two billion of us consume more than two thirds. Two billion poor are completely without reliable and affordable energy. And 1.2 billion live entirely without electricity.

'Energy is the bedrock of economic and social development. It enables factories to run, hospitals to operate, schools and homes to be lit and heated, people and goods to be transported.

'Prioritising the needs of these five billion, and creating a pathway to deliver the affordable energy they need for a decent quality of life, is critical to building a truly global coalition to tackle climate change, with the urgency, and global consensus, it absolutely needs.'

He added, 'Most of these five billion are living on less than $4/day, and as, each year, almost one hundred million people flock to cities globally, the urban deprivation from pollution and lack of infrastructure creates just as many challenges as for the rural poor.'

Brinded stressed the immense scale of these challenges while highlighting emerging evidence from a range of promising, and perhaps unexpected, enterprise-led solutions.

'There is massive scope to accelerate renewables growth and energy efficiency, and certainly enough conventional energy resources to meet the world’s needs. But we need to drive a transformation of the global energy system, focused more on promoting access to modern energy in emerging markets.

'Affordable solar is already revolutionising the way low-income communities access and use energy. Emerging companies selling high-quality portable solar products and pay-as-you-go solar home systems are providing off-grid power to millions of consumers. Decentralised small-scale power plants, using solar or biomass, are lighting households, hospitals, schools and factories in remote areas where the grid will take years to reach. But power at the gigawatt level still needs massive expansion, especially to meet the urbanisation challenge, and, for the developing world, gas and cleaner coal usage will still play a vital role whilst renewables are rapidly scaled up.

'The mushrooming urbanisation challenge is immense, but many cities like Mexico City, Beijing, Ahmedabad and Rio are now several moves ahead in planning more compact urban developments that give poorest citizens easier access to jobs, services and better, more fuel-efficient public transport systems.

'Yet these many promising solutions must all get to scale rapidly. We are talking about challenges that restrict the prospects of billions of people trapped in poverty. Hundreds of millions of school children in emerging markets have no access to power at school. More people die every day from indoor air pollution from cooking on open fires and inefficient stoves than from the entire Ebola crisis.'

Mr Brinded called for a new focus on meeting energy needs in emerging markets to be front and centre, in what is a big year for international development, and to be driven by new technology and business innovation.

'I have five big global asks for businesses, investors, governments and policymakers in the run up to COP 21 in Paris and as the UN Sustainable Development goals are finalised', he concluded:
'1) Tackle the energy needs of the five billion people using less than a third of the world’s energy, alongside the climate change challenge.
2) Work together to find a pathway to an interconnected global carbon market as soon as possible.
3) Dramatically accelerate access to energy for the billions in the dark today, starting with proven solutions, such as solar lighting, clean cook-stoves and rural mini-grids.
4) Make a step change in global collaboration and investment focused on the challenge of immensely rapid developing world urbanisation.
5) Channel more focus towards enterprise-based solutions, with more resources deployed on early stage innovation, in both technology and business models, and on enabling markets to be more efficient and more inclusive.'

Brinded formerly worked for a decade as a main Board Executive Director of Royal Dutch Shell, during 38 years with the company. He is currently Chairman of the Shell Foundation Board of Trustees, and a non-executive director of Network Rail, CH2M HILL and BHP Billiton.

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