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Transforming the Energy Sector: Towards a Sustainable Electricity System

Monday 20 October 17.15-18.30, the Eigtveds Pakhus, Copenhagen

Moderator:  Simon Upton, Environment Director, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Ms. Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director, International Energy Agency

H.E. Hakima El Haite Minister for Environment, Morocco
Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Deputy Director of Fiscal Affairs, IMF
Mr. Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO & Chairman, PKA A/S
Mr. Dolf Gielen, Director, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
Dr. Justin Zachary, Executive VP and Head of Power Technology for Samsung C&T

Discussants from the floor:
Mr. Freddy R. Saragih, Director, Centre for Fiscal Risk Management, Fiscal Policy Office, Ministry of Finance, Indonesia
Mr. Thomas Becker, Chief Executive Officer, The European Wind Energy Association


Electricity remains vital to economic activity and development.  Climate change and energy security provide dual imperatives to transition to a low carbon electricity system. However, environmental concerns must be balanced with the need to create jobs, provide affordable power to consumers, create new industries and maintain the competitive position of existing businesses.

Transformative regulatory solutions, such policies which mandate the phase out of coal in Ontario or nu-clear energy in Germany, present one possible pathway for change. Should governments simply outlaw those forms of energy that don’t fit with national objectives?

Subsidies to renewable energy have been at the heart of the rapid increase in deployment over the last decades, yet these subsidies are dwarfed by those allocated to fossil fuels. Fossil fuel subsidies are widely considered to be not only a barrier to renewable energy but also economically counterproductive and often extremely costly. How can the playing field be levelled for renewable energy? Is fossil fuel subsidy reform a precondition for a sustainable electricity sector or can fossil fuel subsidies continue to coexist with sustainable electricity?

Investors and financiers must weigh in on the economic case for sustainable energy and form a view on how policy will affect their business. Do they see increased regulation, changes to the subsidy landscape or pricing of externalities as a compelling reason to build a business around sustainable electricity?

Session goals

  • Explore the impact of fossil fuel subsidies on the potential to develop a socially, economically and envi-ronmentally sustainable electricity sector. 
  • Examine the decision making processes of investors in fossil fuel based and renewable energy technologies to generate insights into the barriers to a transformation of the electricity sector. 
  • Facilitate the exchange of positive examples of successful policies and measures that have enhances the performance of the electricity sector.

Session description

This session brought together experts in the electricity sector from industry, international organisations and investors to explore debates at the heart of the energy transition and asked what role renewable energy and coal generation should play in the electricity generation mix of the future. 

Executive Director of the IEA, Maria van der Hoeven, opened the session with a keynote speech presenting emerging energy sector trends and challenges facing the electricity sector, including the role of fossil fuel subsidies.

The Moderator provided a short response to the keynote presentation and introduce the panel.  The members of the panel, representing a diverse range of energy sector stakeholders, provided their opening remarks on the challenge of delivering an electricity sector that meets the our future needs within economic, social and environmental constraints. 

Each panelist was then invited to share their perspective on one of the discussion questions concerning the role of energy subsidies, the future electricity mix and examples of good policy.

The Moderator then facilitated a discussion between the panelists of the points raised, take further questions from the floor. 

Finally, the Moderator presented concluding remarks and close the session

Proposed discussion questions

  • How do fossil fuel subsidies affect the energy mix? 
  • What would give the clearest signal to business that they should plan for a transformation to a sustainable electricity sector? What would drive a shift from coal to renewables? 
  • What would make it easier for investors to implement commitments to investments in renewables?
  • Where has government policy succeeded in striking a balance between the social, economic and environmental pressures on the electricity sector?  Should we look to regulation, market based instruments or something else to ensure the sector meets our needs?