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Blog Post
06 Sep 2022

Reflections on ONS 2022

The ONS Foundation is a non-profit organization facilitating discussions and collaboration on energy, technology and innovation. Last week, it brought together executives, policymakers, youth and other stakeholders to discuss the future. The future of the energy sector. The future of the planet. The well-known ‘energy trilemma’ – availability / affordability / sustainability was the key word of many conversations.

It always pays to look where we are, to understand why and where we are going. So where are we today? Three key highlights from ONS discussions:

  1. If there was a “word of the year” for 2022, it would be “weaponization.” We managed to “weaponize” everything – energy, food, fertilizer, migration, you name it.
  2. We, the world, are in a very tight spot – we are trying to balance several things at the same time – energy security, climate change, and interests of people. We are trying to balance short term interests with medium to long term needs.
  3. We are – still – very naïve about the long-term consequences of Covid-19 supply chains breakdown and the Russia-Ukraine war.

As the famous Yogi Berra once said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up someplace else.” It is therefore essential to understand where we are going before we figure out how to get there.

  1. Fossil fuels are likely to stay with us for some time now because we – the world – have not figured out how to deliver energy security (and the related food security) without them.
  2. At the same time, we need to build renewable energy at the scale unseen to date. And that means radical restructuring of permitting for solar, wind, offshore wind, batteries, green hydrogen and all other new technologies. We cannot afford to take a decade to get permits for one offshore wind project. If we are to succeed, as a planet, we need to urgently rethink and redo the process.

And how do we get there?

  1. Energy will no longer be cheap because the traditional supply chains are broken. Therefore, we need to communicate it clearly and ensure a just transition to the new state of the world.
  2. Investors should invest in all technologies, so as to help deliver the energy transition.
  3. We need to save energy – dramatically – to “shrink” the problem.
  4. We need to solve the problem by creating new business opportunities and new business models.
  5. We need to invest aggressively in the new technologies, be it lower carbon ammonia and hydrogen, carbon capture and storage / reuse, new renewable energy at scale and more.

In the words of Albert Einstein, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Here is to our global intent and energy to solve the energy trilemma creatively and effectively, in the month and years to come.

Author(s): Alzbeta Klein, CEO/Director General, International Fertilizer Association