Scott Foster has been the Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Sustainable Energy Division for the past ten years . With more than 30 years of experience in the energy field, Foster has worked extensively with private companies, governments, and international organizations on strategic decision-making, investments, energy policy, market design, and climate change.
Prior to his current role with the UNECE, Foster founded Nomad Energy Consulting in 2004, was Vice President of global regulatory affairs with AES Corporation, Senior Director for global power with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, senior expert on electricity at the International Energy Agency, and hydroelectric engineer at Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Mr. Foster holds a BA from Dartmouth College, an MS in Civil Engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA from UC Berkeley.
Scott Foster, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Sustainable Energy Division, joins host John Sheff to discuss the future of sustainability. Some of the topics they cover include reducing the environmental footprint of existing systems, investing in sustainable resource management, and reforming current energy systems for future needs.
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) governing philosophy is to improve the quality of life of citizens.
- This can only be done in coordination with its member nations.
- While renewable energy resources are important to sustainable energy, they are not the only factor: traditional resources in developed countries cannot simply disappear without major negative impacts.
- One way of looking at the UNECE’s philosophy is what Foster refers to as “energy for sustainable development.”
- UNECE’s mission takes four paths:
- Reducing the environmental footprint of existing systems
- Investing in sustainable resource management
- Reforming current energy systems for future needs
- Engaging with nations to show various possible paths for them to sustainably meet their energy goals
- Despite the name, the UNECE’s membership is broader than just Europe. Member nations include western, central, and eastern European nations, the United States, Canada, Russia, central Asian nations, the Caucasus, Israel, and Turkey.
- In addition to the energy subprogram, there are also subprograms in transportation, environment, forestry, trade, housing, population, and economic cooperation and integration.
- The energy division has, for example, developed best practices for methane management in coal mines, preventing explosions and producing energy.
- Since the pandemic started, UNECE has noticed that greater global use of remote meetings has increased engagement: since traveling is no longer a barrier for participating, additional nations have expressed interest in collaboration.
- The pandemic has also been an opportunity to learn. For example, we have seen what record low temperatures and inadequate power grid has shown some risks of not preparing for worst-case scenarios.
- One potential positive outcome of the pandemic could be pivoting towards sustainability, with increased investments in sustainable technologies and provide incentives for future-proofing new buildings.
- Remote working has proven that doing work online is invaluable. A hybrid style, where those who can work remotely will continue to do so in some way, at least partially.
- Conversely, there will always be some things that must be done in-person.
- Ideally, by allowing those who can work remotely to do so, future pandemics can be avoided or at the very least, their impact will be substantially reduced.
- Power grid vulnerabilities exist in every market: fuel price spikes, component failures, etc.
- Flexibility is key to prevent grid failures in the future: not relying on one type of energy production, spreading out production plants over a large geographically area, etc.
- The future will likely lead to mutually beneficial economic interdependence, connecting multiple grids and systems to support one another.
- Subsidizing industries to an extent that said industries become reliant on those subsidies does not lead to healthy economic systems.
- Decarbonizing transportation will be vital, but what direction that takes has yet to be seen. This uncertainty is why UNECE supports multiple decarbonization efforts including electric-, hydrogen-, and natural gas-based vehicles.
- Methane management will be crucial across industries, both to combat climate change and also to improve air quality.
- Infrastructure investments will need to continue to be made, but will need to better planned and organized rather than investing haphazardly.
- Just transitions into a sustainable future are important to make sure that all communities move forward together, not leaving anyone behind.
- The pandemic has only accelerated the challenges of improving sustainability. It has yet to be seen how governments will address these challenges.
- Just as banks and air travel have shifted from commodities to services, the energy industry needs to do the same. For example, instead of selling electricity by kW/hrs., utilities can offer a subscription-based model to keep subscriber’s home at a constant 70 °F.
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