Insights | March 3, 2020

Energy Transitions Conference 2020

The Energy Transitions 2020 Conference was held at the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu, Finland on 27- 28 February. Energy & Capital Markets Counsel Laura Huomo participated in the seminar. Here are her thoughts on the seminar.

Recently, 75 energy specialists gathered at the UEF Law School in Joensuu to discuss topical issues concerning energy transitions. It was a very refreshing gathering and exchange of ideas of experts from more than 25 countries.

The seminar included various panel discussions in which the panelists addressed topics ranging from the Energy Charter Treaty and its challenges as part of the energy transitions to recent developments in the natural gas sector and the LNG value chain; renewable energy: solutions and challenges; the Clean Energy Package; and energy development in the Russian arctic.

Naturally, it is not possible to participate in all of the interesting panel discussions available, but luckily there were also multiple other gatherings to exchange ideas with these brilliant minds from both academia and private practice.

Themes carried through several panels

The following picks of the dozens of excellent presentations were among those to which I was able to listen or contribute.

Role and future of hydrogen

One theme that I was personally very keen to hear more about was hydrogen and the developments in that regard globally. Hydrogen was a theme in many of the presentations across the keynotes to the various panel topics.

As an observation of this seminar, one thing that I admire very much is the genuine attempt by many countries and their academics and public opinion shapers to change the world and engage in specific actions to make the energy transition happen in a way that secures economic development while fighting global warming.

Decisions made on a country level by authorities and courts affecting ‘zero carbon’ target

But, on a more general level, understanding the implications of the ‘zero carbon’ target for the system which gives local/EU level consents to the energy infrastructure and assesses whether or not current frameworks are able to strategically deliver this target is of the utmost importance as regards to its achievement. While each member state will be developing its own plans, the aim is that national objectives and policies work towards EU goals. A great example of such a decision was the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal in the UK, whereby the government’s backing of the GBP 14 billion scheme to construct a third runway at Heathrow was deemed unlawful on environmental grounds.

Even through this ruling was made by a court in a country that is no longer a member of the European Union (or at least is in the midst of the Brexit process), one can’t help but wonder whether this should be the new standard for infrastructure developers to live by, namely to ensure that, in relation to large infrastructure, the investment case needs to be on solid environmental grounds and conform to national and EU-wide policies combatting climate change.

Also, these requirements will be automatically complied with when impact investing comes into play. Even though no criteria have been established yet in terms of what qualifies as impact investing in the energy space, the criteria will eventually be created and will be supportive of similar goals. This Heathrow decision has already been cited in other contexts in the energy transitions space, for example in the article “The world must look beyond sun and wind for hydrogen” by Jonathan Ford in the Financial Times.

Some of these issues were addressed at a seminar on Impact Investing held by Roschier and the IPFA on 11 February 2020.