Pan-Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Forum


By Tim Dixon

5 June 2019

It was a privilege to be invited to present to the first Pan-Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Forum, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal sovereign states, which are home to 2.4 billion people and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. 31 of their members are small states, many of which are island nations. The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to achieve development, democracy and peace, with its Oceans and Natural Resources Division assisting member states in sustainably managing their natural resources and broader energy sector matters. As IEAGHG we usually get the opportunity at UNFCCC Side-events to reach out to such countries and this was a welcome opportunity away from that complex and busy environment.

This Sustainable Energy Forum was based on UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy. There were around 40 delegates from 34 countries. Much of the focus was on the transition to sustainable energy systems with renewable energy technologies, with context setting provided by IRENA, the IEA, Bloomberg and DNV. The Green Climate Fund presented on project finance for energy transitions, making reference to IRENA roadmaps. It was most interesting to hear the perspectives back in return from the small island states. For example with renewable energy the benefits are clear in terms of reducing GHG emissions, off-grid access to energy, increased reliance on their own energy resources, and also benefits in national economics described as “if fossil fuels brought in, then balance of trade goes out”. However the challenges of implementing renewable technologies were also raised, as well as their intermittency, issues around IPR, reliance on foreign experts, relevance to local circumstances, need for land for food, and accessing spare parts were mentioned. With respect to the applicability of CCS, many small island states have significant point sources of CO2 from their domestic industries, and some have their own fossil fuel resources, and some have both such as Trinidad and Tobago. CCS is an option for such countries to seriously consider within their national circumstances. I was asked to present on CCS and its relevance to Commonwealth countries. Some such as Canada, Australia and UK are of course advanced on CCS, but many are less so and my talk was aimed at those, drawing upon and sharing the experiences of Canada, Australia, the UK and South Africa. As well as application to power and industry, in the global reflections on reducing emissions from transport, where even with the great increase in electric vehicles, only 3% of land transport is currently based on renewable energy, I included the potential for decarbonising the hard-to-reach sectors of land and sea transport with ‘blue’ hydrogen and CCS. The OGCI also included their work on CCUS and hydrogen in their presentation on reducing emissions from fossil fuels. One good question on CCS was on whether every small island state has the right geology offshore for storage. To assist the states and their geological surveys to assess their storage potential (which is their own national resource) IEAGHG has produced a report “National CO2 Storage Assessment Guidance” IEAGHG 2016-TR06 as well as the reports on the Offshore CCS Workshops. Please contact to request a copy.

Thank you to the Commonwealth Secretariat for organising this interesting event and for the invite to present, and in particular to Nick Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources, who is formerly CSIRO and member of the IEAGHG Monitoring Network. 

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