Scott Strazik is the CEO of GE Vernova. GE Vernova is a sponsor of the 2023 Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum. This essay is part of the Global Energy Agenda.
As the world gathers in Dubai for an impactful United Nations Climate Change Conference, we find ourselves at the cusp of unprecedented opportunities for action. The private sector must deliver, service, and innovate the technologies that help provide electricity reliably, affordably, and globally. Wind, natural gas, nuclear energy, and grid construction, connections, and upgrades are clear drivers for the future of a successful energy transition. We can fast track these efforts if we continue to see the growth of strong partnerships with public institutions.
Across industries, the past few years have shown encouraging signs of support for this growth, such as an expansion in clean tech financing, increased investment throughout the private sector, more policy certainty around the globe, and new collaborations among companies and governments.
While these factors have contributed to moving the energy landscape in a positive direction, hurdles remain. For example, in the race to reduce carbon emissions, the demand for power is still outpacing the current supply—and this gap will persist. Global electricity demand has risen consistently at a clip of more than 2 percent since 2015, yet at the same time roughly 775 million people around the world still lack access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy.
Because of this, the role of the private sector—specifically around innovation and technology—has never been more crucial as we continue to electrify the world while simultaneously working to decarbonize it.
The good news is that while we confront these challenges, there are now new coordinated and deliberate efforts to address climate change at the scale and size it demands. The public and private sectors are working in tandem more than ever before. Innovative new technologies are being developed and deployed faster, and, importantly, across continents and throughout governments, there’s recognition that the energy transition must also help developing economies improve the quality of life for citizens.
The role of the private sector… has never been more crucial as we continue to electrify the world while simultaneously working to decarbonize it.
Recent advancements toward decarbonization have been driven in part by policies that are elevating the role of business to lead the development and deployment of critical technologies at scale. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States has steered significant financing toward cleaner manufacturing and lower-carbon technologies, and implementation of the law has already helped spur job creation and investments by US-based manufacturers. By the August 2023 one-year mark after the IRA’s passage, more than 200 new clean energy projects had been publicly announced, representing more than $86 billion in investments and tens of thousands of new jobs.
The energy transition presents a clear opportunity for more partnerships like these among governments, industries, and communities. Innovative energy technologies, such as small modular reactors, are being deployed globally so that all regions can benefit from the jobs, supply chain, and training that come alongside a lower-carbon energy source. And countries including the COP28 host, the United Arab Emirates, are advancing ambitious goals like the Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative that align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
We can do more. Ensuring greater access to electricity for populations currently in need while also addressing climate change is possible if we deploy diverse generating technologies today, and invest in the breakthrough innovations of tomorrow. This vision requires a diverse suite of the latest solutions in renewables, gas, nuclear, grid, and digital technologies. Through a combination of coal-to-gas switching, enhanced grid resiliency, and investments in infrastructure needed to deploy more renewables, we can balance reducing carbon emissions with power reliability to ensure communities can thrive and economies keep growing.
As the private and public sectors look for more opportunities for partnerships throughout the energy transition, I’m confident we will see a force multiplier that accelerates the work to electrify the world while simultaneously decarbonizing it. This spirit and letter of partnership and cooperation is the thread that connects our efforts and determines their success. We must move forward and work to meet this moment together.
Partner perspective: Energy companies are essential to global climate solutions
By Mansoor Mohamed Al Hamed
The Global Energy Center develops and promotes pragmatic and nonpartisan policy solutions designed to advance global energy security, enhance economic opportunity, and accelerate pathways to net-zero emissions.