Power and renewables

A love letter to the fringe

COP26 Stefanie Bourne

Contact us:

Stefanie Bourne

Stefanie Bourne

Business Director - Renewable Energy Project Development

Are you in?

There’s the COP26 you see on the news: famous faces delivering inspirational messages, political leaders making firm commitments, protesters demanding more of our leadership. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to realize how far we’ve come as a renewables industry, and how hard we’ve worked to get here. If you asked me 13 years ago whether I’d be watching a social media stream of my industry colleagues interfacing with dignitaries, royals and celebrities – I’m positive I would have laughed in your face. But “here” isn’t our final destination. There is a massive amount of work we have to do as an industry that will require the complete transformation of our systems, our mindset and the way we do business.

What you don’t see on the news – is the fringe. The fringe is the whole ecosystem of people, companies, events, panels, debates and meetings that are orbiting around COP26. It’s easy to be cynical about the fringe. What change do we really think we’re making sitting on panels talking about the role of digitalization in the energy transition? (Asking for a friend).

What I realized while orbiting around the fringe in Glasgow this week, is that – we can’t do this without the fringe. It’s the passion and commitment of people in the fringe that will ultimately be responsible for asking tough questions – proposing transformative solutions – and figuring out how we get to 2050 within our carbon budget. Yes – of course we need our political leaders to make firm commitments to drive the market and provide the framework for us to succeed – that’s undeniable. But what I ask of all of you – is not to discount the fringe. They’re great!

We’ve worked hard enough to put renewables on a foundation where they are cost competitive with conventional generation. We’re no longer the underdogs. But because of that – we need to pivot our conversation to more complicated topics and the interfaces between them. If we expect renewables to be the main contributor to electrification, decarbonization and subsequently, decentralization – we need to talk about the role of energy storage in balancing the grid, skills transfer from the oil and gas industry, digitalization of the grid and changing mindset, the role of ESG in renewables, a just transition – you name it! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of challenges we have. Enter: the fringe!

The fringe is attacking each of these topics, piece by piece: whether it’s rethinking the planning & permitting processes that cause stagnation, addressing challenges around supply chain or figuring out how we get 30,000 new faces into our industry to help. And the benefit of doing that – is that we can make a very complicated problem surmountable while still progressing each issue and sorting the interfaces between them.

I make it sound easy, don’t I? Well, it’s not – it will be hard, and time is not on our side. For the world to reach net zero emissions and hence secure a 1.5°C future, leading regions and sectors have to go much further, faster. But as I look at the colleagues and peers in the industry, I have standing alongside me – I know for sure, that I’d never bet against them. 1.5 degrees is within our grasp, if everybody lifts what they can.

There has never been a more exciting time to be working in renewable energy – we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us – and the fringe is poised for action. To quote the Global Wind Energy Council: “Hot air won’t save the planet, but we can. Are you in?”

Contact us:

Stefanie Bourne

Stefanie Bourne

Business Director - Renewable Energy Project Development