At ISEP Launch Event, Time is of the Essence for Sustainable Energy Policy

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by Eli Birgé


This Monday, Kenney Auditorium at Johns Hopkins SAIS filled with students, practitioners and members of the energy community, gathered for the official launch of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy. 


SAIS Dean Vali Nasr officially inaugurated the event, putting the ambition behind ISEP’s creation into context; “SAIS will be a leading voice in pragmatic but effective approaches…to renewable energy distribution. ” Dean Nasr also introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Rachel Kyte, CEO at Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy.


Rachel Kyte emphasized the urgency of facing our global energy challenges. “Time is our enemy. And we have no time to waste,” she said, enumerating the primary challenges to distributed energy. Ms. Kyte also shone light on the bright sides of energy developments; ten years ago, coal was part of the future energy matrix – today, coal is no longer part of the debate. The transition away from coal dependency will be difficult for poor developing countries and requires technical and financial support of the global community. “We must ensure we leave nobody behind in a decarbonized economy.”


ISEP Founding Director Johannes Urpelainen was next to take the stage, introduced as a luminary in emerging market energy policy, award-winning author and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy Resources Environment. Professor Urpelainen’s regional expertise in South Asia is highly relevant to ISEP’s research and mission. Given that half of the billion people living without electricity are located in South Asia, this region is a laboratory for successful energy policy. “It’s very clear that how these countries create energy will be key for dealing with climate change,” the professor said. In addition to this regional focus, ISEP is unique in the world of think tanks and academic institutes, Professor Urpelainen said, because of its emphasis, “transmitting our findings in a way that key government officials can actually understand.”


Monday’s launch event concluded with a discussion between Ms. Kyte and Prof. Urpelainen, with topics ranging from the new horizons for clean cooking fuel, to how to manage existing infrastructure, to how energy accounting has failed to consider negative externalities. With limited time remaining in the event, the Q&A session had to be cut short and unfortunately, several questions remaining unasked. Fortunately, with ISEP as an ongoing source of critical dialogue, research and engagement, there will be ample time to address our generation’s most pressing energy issues.


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