In the run up to India-led G20 Leaders’ Summit 2023, the Energy Transitions Ministerial Meeting (ETMM) concluded last month with a forward-looking outcome document that emphasises the acceleration of a just and equitable energy transition. While member nations unanimously recognised the need for addressing technology gaps, ensuring low-cost financing and promoting energy efficiency, among other things as components of energy transitions, discussions on tripling renewable energy capacity and phasing out coal were the points of divergence. Under the Indian Presidency, the central theme of G20 in 2023 is “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, with climate change mitigation at the heart of India’s agenda.
Outcome document of ETMM
Energy security and diversified supply chains: Given the critical role of certain minerals, materials and technologies in energy transition, the G20 energy ministers recognised the need to maintain reliable and sustainable supply chains of such minerals and materials, semiconductors and related technologies. They agreed to support voluntary and mutual technology diffusion, skill development, increasing scale of beneficiation at the source, circularity and sustainable alternatives to maintain the supply chain for these minerals. The G20 group also recognised the role of regional/cross-border power systems integration in improving energy security and ensuring universal access to affordable and sustainable energy. It emphasised the need for increased public and private investments, and support from international finance institutions to developing countries for the development of regional/ cross-border interconnections.
Universal energy access and just, affordable and inclusive energy transition pathways: The group recognised access to affordable and sustainable energy as a moral imperative and a basic human need. It is committed to accelerating progress in clean cooking, electricity access and the eradication of energy poverty. The group also aims to enhance collaborations and partnerships to promote zero- and low-emission technologies, and drive the creation of new jobs and social dialogue to address the needs of workers. It also supports and encourages a stronger focus on women empowerment and gender equality in energy transitions at every level.
Energy efficiency and responsible consumption: The group recognises the role of energy efficiency and energy savings as the “first fuel” and is committed to strengthening global efforts on energy efficiency through international engagements such as the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme, Energy Efficiency Hub and Clean Energy Ministerial. These platforms facilitate the sharing of best practices and knowledge as well as the promotion of technology transfer and circular approaches. It aims to accelerate the uptake of energy saving policies and measures such as the adoption of super-efficient appliances, optimisation of demand for cooling and heating, and scale-up of commercially available energy efficiency technologies.
Addressing technology gaps for energy transitions: While the energy ministers reiterated the significance of accelerating the deployment of mature clean energy technologies (such as solar, wind, hydropower including pumped storage, geothermal, bioenergy, heat pumps, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and nuclear energy), it also recognised the need for greater deployment of new and emerging technologies such as electrolysers, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, direct air capture, high efficiency fuel cells, ACC battery storage, sustainable advanced biofuels, and small modular reactors in accelerating the energy transitions. The countries that have opted to use civil nuclear energy reaffirmed its role in providing clean energy and achieving energy security, given its ability to supply baseload power and offer grid flexibility. These countries aim to collaborate in research, development and deployment of civil nuclear technologies including advanced and small modular reactors.
Fuels for the future: The group recognises the importance of adopting and advancing sustainable biofuels and hydrogen produced from zero- and low-emission technologies, and its derivatives such as ammonia to advance energy transitions, enhance energy security, and address GHG emissions. It aims to support the production and utilisation of green hydrogen and its derivatives by developing voluntary and mutually agreed harmonising standards as well as mutually recognised, and interoperable certification schemes. The member countries have adopted “G20 High Level Voluntary Principles on Hydrogen” (see box) to build a sustainable and equitable global hydrogen ecosystem. India has also launched the Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre under the aegis of the International Solar Alliance at the G20 ETWG ministerial meet.
With regard to biofuels, the group aims to promote innovative technologies for sector coupling and increasing the role of bioenergy and biofuels in the 4Rs framework (reduce, reuse, recycle and remove). India has also announced its plan to establish a Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA), which is expected to be formally launched in the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi. At an event on consultations and recommendations for the Global Biofuels Alliance organised on the sideline of the Energy Transitions Ministerial Meeting, 19 countries expressed their interest in becoming initiating members of the alliance. The GBA will serve as an international platform for sharing best practices, promoting sustainable biofuel development, and enhancing its application, particularly within the transportation sector. The alliance is expected to be spearheaded by major biofuel producers – the US, Brazil and India – and aims to accelerate the transition to sustainable fuels while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Access to low-cost financing for energy transitions: The G20 energy ministers emphasised the need to expedite the voluntary transfer and adoption of sustainable and low-carbon energy technologies on mutually agreed terms. These technologies are often capital-intensive and require low-cost financing from various sources. G20 members will work towards facilitating access to low-cost finance for existing as well as new and emerging clean and sustainable technologies.
Notably, the report on “Low-cost Financing for the Energy Transition”, prepared under the Indian Presidency, estimates that the world needs an annual investment of over $4 trillion, with a high share of renewable energy in the primary energy mix. The outcome report reiterates the importance of low-cost financing in accelerating energy transitions. It recognises the need for international finance institutions and multilateral development banks to enhance and develop new mechanisms and products to promote access to low-cost financing that align with their mandates and governance framework and the goal to scale up the mobilisation of private finance.
According to the chair’s summary, which incorporates the suggestions of member nations when a consensus is not achieved, the G20 energy ministers’ meeting failed to reach an agreement on phasing out coal and tripling renewable energy capacity. The chair’s summary noted that the energy sector’s contribution to GHG emissions is significant, but fossil fuels continue to play a significant role in the global energy mix, eradication of energy poverty and fulfilment of the growing energy demand. While some members stressed the need to phase down unabated fossil fuels in line with varying national circumstances, others had different views on the matter, asserting that abatement and removal technologies could address such concerns.
In addition, the chair summary highlighted that the current rate of global deployment of grid-based technologies might be inadequate to achieve universal energy access. It called for an accelerated expansion of renewable energy in line with different national contexts, in terms of natural potential and where initial efforts have already been undertaken. The expansion should address challenges such as power systems’ flexibility, remove barriers that hinder implementation, and bring down costs. It highlighted the significance of our voluntary contributions in tripling the capacity of the mentioned energy technologies globally by 2030, through existing targets and policies in line with national circumstances.
Reportedly, major fossil fuel producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, opposed a proposal to triple the renewable energy capacity of G20 countries by 2030. China as well as coal exporters, South Africa and Indonesia also opposed these plans.
The Indian presidency led G20 energy ministers’ summit successfully highlighted some urgent needs in the energy sector, such as the enhancement in energy efficiency and supply resilience, and identified the new and emerging areas of cooperation among nations such as biofuels and green hydrogen.
However, the G20 energy officials meeting concluded with an Outcome Document and Chair’s Summary, instead of the anticipated Official Communique. Besides, the member nations failed to reach a consensus on some pivotal issues including the phasing out of coal and the target of tripling renewable energy capacity. The lack of consensus on these issues has been seen at several energy transition and climate change dialogues.
Net, net, at this juncture, it is crucial for countries globally to curtail climate change and limit global warming through adoption of sustainable practices and clean energy solutions. This commitment has been at the core of the G20 2023 summit under the Indian presidency, reflecting the country’s strong commitment towards climate change mitigation.