We recently attended the SPE: Energy Dot Leadership Summit. Going into the event, we were interested in learning how “Oil and Gas will mix with the Silicon Valley” as the conference brochure proclaimed. To our surprise, we learned that energy mixes a lot better with digital technology (aka Silicon Valley) than it does with water. For example, the actual process of creating batteries is very eco-friendly despite common belief. This is just one of many examples of how energy and digital technology are coming together to make an impact. There were multiple conversations about Digital Transformation and what it means to the energy industry. We also took interest to topics around carbon sequestration, renewables and the “unknowns” in the future of energy. We walked away from the event being provided three general themes:
1. Energy’s reputation will likely change in the future
The energy industry will be very different in 2050 than it is today. The speakers noted that when the public focuses on the negative impacts of the energy industry, energy tends to be compared to Big Tobacco. The speakers also mentioned that energy is receiving bad press and a label that is not correct. Much of the public would like to make them out to be Big Tobacco but the public needs to understand that energy companies are working to overcome past challenges and change public perception. Energy companies have the long-term vision and the long-term project experience to bring more environmentally friendly technologies, like carbon sequestration and renewables, to a viable reality.
2. Digital Transformation is the new frontier for energy
Public reports are shedding light on how energy companies are playing a huge role in developments of reducing carbon output. Digital Transformation is the gateway to organizing and analyzing the massive amounts of data being produced. Digital Transformation enables the reporting of this information back to the public and energy companies so they can see that energy is not what it was. If Digital Transformation is a new term to you, check out our blog to learn more about how Digital Transformation is being used in the energy industry.
3. Renewables will be playing a bigger role
One of the first sessions focused on the 2050 outlook of the energy industry. It was a fireside chat with a group of panelists including executives from Schlumbeger, Hall Labs and Station Houston. Their conversation focused on the future of energy, including topics like renewables and unknown effects. This is what we heard and interpreted from their conversations.
There is a “renewable checkpoint” in 2030
Renewables, in multiple forms, will become a larger part of the energy mix. Renewables will grow in their use up to the 2030 Climate Change Deadline. In October 2018, the UN and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report calling for the immediate reduction of planetary carbon emissions to levels 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. If we are able to do that, we may be able to hold the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C. This will still bring with unprecedented environmental challenges, but it might avert complete catastrophe. Right now, we are on track for a global temperature increase of 3 to 4°C. Three degrees is considered the tipping point beyond which it may be impossible to prevent the extermination of a large portion of the species on Earth. In 2030 there will be a major checkpoint to evaluate where things are and this could accelerate or decelerate renewables importance.
There could be “unknown” effects from new technologies
The positive thing about fossil fuel is it has been used for so long on a very large scale, therefore the world already knows most of the negative and positive effects. This is not true of new technologies. While new energy technologies could have positive effects, there could also be negative effects that we do not know about. We have used technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, steam and fuel cells on a small scale and have been successful. However, we have no way of knowing what negatives they might represent being used on a large scale. While we can’t predict these “unknown” risks, we should try to be as cognizant as possible about potential negative effects of new technology. Two examples where renewables could have negative impact are:
Use of land: Renewables will be taking energy producing share from coal – which everyone agree is a good thing. However, we need to continue to monitor the massive amount of land it will take to place enough windmills and solar panels to generate the electricity needed to replace just coal. Keep in mind, coal plays a small role in energy production. This could become an unintended side effect if not monitored.
Electronic cars: Everyone is ready to start using electronic cars with no real consideration of the risk. While electronic cars are labeled as Zero Emissions, they are still causing emissions through charging. If a car is being charged in an area that is using coal to produce electricity, it could be causing more CO2 emmisions than a combustion engine car. In addition, the world is concerned about the environmental effects of battery disposal from car batteries and what happens when we have to dispose of car batteries that are 50 times larger than current car batteries.
These are just examples to show that we need to think about and anticipate the longer-term effects upfront or we could be causing new (and possibly more serious) problems than the problems we are solving for. We need to evaluate new ideas thoroughly before putting them into action.
The event’s wonderful and thought-provoking conversations from qualified speakers affirmed recent ideas that we have been discussing and made us aware to many new ideas. We enjoyed all of the ideas and trends that were discussed at the event. If you were also at the SPE event and have any ideas and thoughts about what was discussed, we would love to hear them! Comment below or reach out to Jeff Olle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Diayane Aguirre (left) and Jeff Olle (right) at the SPE EnergyDot: The Leadership Summit.
At Veritas Total Solutions, one way we stay up-to-date with the latest energy industry trends is by attending conferences and events. We believe in sharing our thoughts and ideas with peers, clients and colleagues so everyone can benefit from what we learned at these conferences and events. Please note, all of our event recaps are interpretations and opinions on the topics discussed. If you want to chat with us about a specific event or if you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.