Watershed moment: As renewables rise, world must brace for era of disruption

(Eco Business, 27 Jan 2020) The renewables revolution could lead to political upheaval, social fractures and economic crises if states fail to take bold decisions and cooperate with each other.

A new world is emerging from the global shift to renewables, and it is poised to upend societies and economies that have been powered and shaped by fossil fuels for two centuries.

Unless the world prepares for these imminent fundamental changes, states reliant on oil rents, industries built on conventional technologies, and communities that dig or drill for fossil fuels for a living could soon face major social, economic and political disturbances, according to leading experts from the worlds of politics, energy and economics.

Speaking at a session on the geopolitics of the energy transformation at the tenth assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in January, experts said the transformation that renewables brought about was such that it altered the geopolitical fabric of the world, with fundamental changes for trade, politics and people.

Nations, they said, must strengthen international cooperation and align their economic strategies with the clean energy switch to steer away from the risks arising while benefiting from new opportunities.

“We are entering an age of disruption, and it is not just happening in the energy industry, but across the board,” Adnan Amin, former director-general at IRENA, told the audience. “On balance, the social and economic outcome will be beneficial to the global economy as we move into an era of low-carbon and low-cost energy, but that is not to say that it will be a smooth path.”

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Eco Business, 27 Jan 2020: Watershed moment: As renewables rise, world must brace for era of disruption