We are at a time of very interesting possibilities for the global gas value chain. On one side there is massive potential being delivered. On the other, significant decline foreseen in future scenarios.
I believe we have many reasons to be positive. We should not ignore risk, but understand it better so as to convert it to opportunity.
1. We have many reasons to be positive.
Today, as we near the end of 2021, gas has never been as important to global society – and that value will increase dramatically.
Gas’ global importance is so clear, because we are all in the midst of multiple challenging interconnected dynamics. And Europe and its countries like Slovakia are no exception.
Energy at large is crucially important. At least for 3 different but combined challenges and objectives:
1. Energy access – every human on the planet should have reliable, secure, affordable energy access
2. Socio economic development – all societies must have the right to develop their economies to enhance the life of their people
3. Sustainability and the environment – we have a clear objective in fighting climate change and the influence of 21st century society on the global environment.
I believe that natural gas today, together with a growing portfolio of decarbonised and renewable gasses, is among the major solutions to all of these.
Natural gas is a major positive force in the global energy system, as it has been in Europe for the past decades and for the foreseeable future.
And the gas industry has always looked at how – creating international interconnections and cooperation, and here in Slovakia we can surely witness my words put into good practice – we could deliver energy to consumers, increasing competitiveness and security of supply.
These are the solid pillars our gas industry can build upon to fully support a more sustainable and equitable global energy system development and evolution.
I purposefully use “development” and “evolution” and not “transition” for our industry.
I consider in fact that abundant, affordable, flexible, efficient, and clean, gasses are and will be the foundation of, and catalyst for, any future energy need of consumers.
2. IGU position on climate change & gas as the catalyst for and foundation of a more sustainable energy system
Let me be clear: I am also saying that we all recognise climate change as one of the major challenges of 21st century global society.
At the same time we very well recognise people’s needs to having secure and affordable energy to support economic growth and personal well-being.
The IGU is working hard to increase the role of gasses in their broadest sense in the sustainable development and broader environmental dynamic. And our global technical network is providing a strong platform for sharing ideas and expertise, which I see are well represented in tomorrow’s conference programme.
And we understand that, to have a seat at the table, and for our Global Voice of Gas to be listened to, we have to engage. With no misunderstandings.
I am here clearly reaffirming that the IGU fully supports the Paris Agreement, the Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce GHG emissions, and is committed to the significant decarbonization of the global energy system.
We recognise the challenge of global warming and believe we are a part of a viable solution, based on proven technology and viable return on investments.
We believe that natural gas today and a portfolio of decarbonised gasses, including hydrogen, tomorrow will be the catalyst for and foundation of a more sustainable energy future.
Natural gas – due to its availability, versatility for heating, power, chemical feedstock and also for transport, price competitiveness, energy density, clean burning properties – and hydrogen – due to its low carbon content and many possible places and methods of production – will both play important roles in global energization and decarbonization.
The combination of gas and renewables has already removed or reduced more polluting fuels from multiple markets.
This is a trend which will continue and develop as technologies in both gas and renewables are enhanced – for instance wide scale adoption of CC(U)S to ensure that there is as little unabated gas in the system as possible, and existing natural gas infrastructure that can be used for a more sustainable future – for instance with blending of molecules for a lower carbon solution, or even fully switching to hydrogen.
It is also through the use of available and projected gas technologies that the great challenge of our time will be managed – and managed in a just manner.
3. Gas drives socio economic value across the world
This is even more visible at a global level.
Gas offers an opportunity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including a global access to clean and modern energy.
Reliable, safe, and affordable energy access is needed to educate children, maintain healthcare, power businesses. And for any meaningful social or economic growth.
Also considering the more than 2 billion additional people living on the planet by 2050.
Social and economic aspects matter, across the entire world, even in regions that are considered as more prosperous than others.
For instance, I am from Italy, where – according to most recent statistics – 8% of our population suffers from energy poverty.
And let me also recall that, according to the European Commission, there are between 50 and 125 million people who are unable to afford proper indoor thermal comfort. Energy poverty is not just about the developing world.
Gas enables quick, clean and affordable expansion of energy access due to its inherent characteristics and flexibility. New gas infrastructure and increased natural gas usage can propel economies, and contribute to reducing energy poverty.
Gas should be considered as a component of the broader energy system, where each choice has its trade-offs and where also national or regional approaches can differ. One should equally consider the social, environmental and economic implications of each energy component in a systemic way.
For this very reason, allow me also to briefly comment that our reading of several of the proposals issued by the European Commission in July (the Fit for 55 package) – explicitly or not – give a sense of exchanging the (correct) goal of decarbonisation with the (wrong) identification of a single – predefined – “winner”.
Winners should always be consumers, not technologies, which should be able to compete, and innovate, on a level playing field.
Policy makers have a clear role in this respect.
I am therefore very interested to the following debate and I will be happy to have further interactions on this complex dossier.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have transmitted to you my primary aspiration for the future: to work together in a collaborative manner to demonstrate with facts that gas – natural, green, decarbonised – is a force for good, both in Europe and for the world.
I am fully confident we can shape the future of our gas industry to meet these targets. And that’s why I already look forward to my future Presidency of the IGU.
To conclude, let me leave you with one phrase. Applicable to the present and the future.