Illustration; Source: DNV

Security of supply to surpass clean and affordable parts of energy trilemma in 2023, says DNV

The global energy crisis ushered in the energy trilemma in 2022, which took root and became an important challenge facing the energy industry. This challenge will not go away in 2023, according to DNV, a Norway-based classification society, which predicts that energy security will be the top priority in the energy trilemma this year. 

Illustration; Source: DNV

Based on DNV’s research – analysing the views of more than 1,300 senior energy professionals – based on a survey conducted between December 2022 and January 2023, energy security concerns outweigh clean and affordable energy on the list of priorities for energy companies globally, as the industry says the energy system will not resolve the energy trilemma in the next decade.

As a result, DNV claims that energy security will take centre stage for oil, gas and power sectors in the year ahead while renewable energy players will maintain their clean energy focus. On the other hand, the priorities of industrial energy consumers are expected to contrast with their suppliers and partners, as they prioritise accessible and affordable energy.  

Ditlev Engel, CEO of Energy Systems at DNV, remarked: “The energy trilemma is in focus in 2023 as the energy system struggles on all three aspects. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded the world how fragile energy security can be; coal plants are being fired up while renewables projects come under pressure; and energy consumers are being pressed on the cost of energy.

“The trilemma is also in transition. In a complex and difficult year for the energy industry, we see the trilemma leading to competing priorities. But in a decarbonised energy system, energy sustainability, affordability, and security actually all pull in the same direction, and the public and private sector can resolve the trilemma through a new approach to scaling and implementation.”  

Less than half the industry or just 39 per cent of energy professionals are confident about meeting decarbonisation and climate targets, highlights DNV. However, the energy transition progress is the greatest driver of confidence among energy professionals for the year ahead with the majority believing the energy transition is accelerating. 

According to ‘Trilemma and Transition: The momentum to break barriers,’ the latest edition of DNV’s annual research on the outlook for the energy industry, resolving the energy trilemma – delivering secure, clean, and affordable energy – is viewed by the energy industry as a long-term goal.

Moreover, the research shows that few in the industry (17 per cent) believe the transition will deliver secure, clean, and affordable energy in the next decade to all parts of the energy system in their country while most (41 per cent) see this being achieved in 10-20 years, while a sizable group (32 per cent) believe this crucial outcome of the energy transition will not be realised until well into the 2040s.

DNV points out that there is general agreement on this outlook across regions, with only energy professionals in North America being slightly more conservative on the timeline. While some 80 per cent of professionals in the renewables sector believe energy security concerns will lead to increased investment in renewables in the year ahead, a majority (61 per cent) from across the energy industry say their company can become more profitable by improving sustainability. 

More oil & gas investments on the cards

Meanwhile, a record year of profits for the oil and gas industry has redefined what acceptable profits look like for the sector, 52 per cent of oil and gas executives said in 2022 that their organisation would make acceptable profits if the oil price averaged $40 to $50 per barrel. In contrast, just 39 per cent feel the same in 2023.

Furthermore, half of the respondents from the oil and gas industry (53 per cent) say that their organisation will increase investment in gas in 2023, up eight percentage points year-on-year, while some 43 per cent of the oil and gas industry expect to ramp up investment in oil, up nine percentage points. DNV underlines that oil and gas companies are slowing their shift into areas outside of core hydrocarbon businesses and holding back their focus on decarbonisation compared to 2022. 

Despite this, the energy industry as a whole expects to increase investment in clean energy sources and carriers in 2023, as half of the energy professionals expect their organisation to invest in low-carbon hydrogen/ammonia (52 per cent), and similar proportions in wind (49 per cent) and solar (46 per cent).

In addition, over a third expect their organisation to increase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS). In enabling technologies, six out of 10 say their organisation is increasing investment in energy efficiency and digitalisation, and half the industry is investing in energy storage technologies

The energy transition has accelerated through both a pandemic and an energy crisis, and this has left markets striving to keep up, across transmission and distribution systemssupply chains, permitting and licensing, financing, infrastructure, and the workforce,” added Engel.

While DNV’s research finds signs that barriers could slow the pace of the energy transition in the year ahead, it also underscores that momentum is building to break these barriers as societies increasingly feel the effects of climate and energy crises, and as bottle-necks become more acute in holding back progress. 

With just a fifth in the renewables sector saying current transmission capacity planning is sufficient to enable the expansion of renewables, there is strong agreement in the power sector about an urgent need for greater investment in the grid. Three-quarters of the energy industry says that supply chain issues are slowing down the transition, while less than half the industry (44 per cent) expects a significant improvement in the availability of goods in 2023. 

For the renewables sector, DNV claims that lack of policy/government support and permitting/licensing issues are the greatest barriers to growth. In line with this, a strong majority (88 per cent) of survey participants hammer home that accelerating permitting and licensing is critical to meeting climate goals. 

On a regional basis, finance is easier to access for organisations in North America and Europe while some 40 per cent of energy companies globally are finding it increasingly difficult to secure reasonably priced finance for projects. By sector, almost half of the power companies (47 per cent) are finding it increasingly difficult to secure financing and 62 per cent of industrial energy consumers. 

In the year ahead, we may see a slowing in the scale-down of fossil fuels, but potentially also a slowing in the scale-up of clean energy – if barriers aren’t overcome. Governments and policymakers must step up and remove barriers to implementation, and everyone in the energy industry must push forward in the transition,” concluded Engel.

DNV’s previous analysis, published last year, indicated that the Ukraine crisis would not derail Europe’s energy transition.

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On the contrary, these events were expected to speed up the transition process with countries pivoting towards renewables in a bid to become independent from Russian gas more quickly, leading to faster decarbonisation.