Society must change its’ entire infrastructure to be truly sustainable

Jeffrey Brian Straubel, the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Tesla Inc., the global leader in electronic vehicles and clean energy generation and storage products, has told regional energy leaders at the Global Smart Energy Summit that the world must change its 'entire infrastructure' to reverse Carbon Dioxide levels in the environment and create a truly sustainable future.

Presenting a keynote address at the opening of the inaugural Global Smart Energy Summit (GSES), Straubel said the world’s historic over-reliance on fossil fuels must end – but warned reversing current Carbon Dioxide levels in the Earth’s delicate atmosphere may already be beyond the present generation.

“Fossil fuels across all their different applications have brought huge benefits to society and mankind but they’ve also had a lot of unintended consequences,” said Straubel. “The increased concentration of Carbon Dioxide levels in our atmosphere is one of the most difficult global challenges facing the world today. We’ve seen a profound shift in the last several years, (with Carbon Dioxide levels) crossing the 400 parts per million in our atmosphere for the first time – now every day of the year is above that threshold. It’s very sobering to think that, almost certainly, we will not see the Carbon Dioxide levels fall below that - we will not turn this around in our lifetimes."

“With all the science, technology and engineering that we have, we can’t think of an easy way to turn this curve around. All the ways we use energy for transportation and moving people or goods around, it’s not something we can change overnight and we won’t change it overnight - but we have to change our entire infrastructure.”

The only solution, Straubel relayed to an influential gathering of the region’s energy and power sector heavyweights, is a seismic shift in how society powers itself – from consumer electronics to state sponsored power generation programmes.

“All of the technology and all of the products we have come to rely on, they have to go through this transition to become sustainable. This has to happen over the next several decades to perhaps a century. We’re right in the middle of architecting how this is all going to look, everyone’s playing hard in creating what that whole new ecosystem can be,” added Straubel.

Citing how Tesla is supporting electronic vehicle adoption by opening new recharge stations every 12 hours, Straubel, who ranked second on Fortune magazine's ‘40 under 40’ list of the world’s most influential business and innovation leaders in 2015, reiterated the need for increased public-private sector co-operation to drive home infrastructure development at a global level.

“We founded the company to help solve the problems created by the transportation industry; we wanted to build better products, different types of products, that would solve global pollution problems related to transport and energy overall.

“It’s not that often we get to reinvent infrastructure – it only happens every several generations. When I was growing up, I used to romanticise about the inventors at the beginning of the 20th century who got to invent steam engines and automobiles for the first time – they were creating industry on a blank slate. It was quite sad to think it would never happen again but, in reality, we’re facing that exact same opportunity again today, except on an even bigger scale with our infrastructure.”

The inaugural Global Smart Energy Summits gathered more than 110 high-profile speakers and some of the biggest corporate champions in sector transformation. Three days of conferences and focused splinter tracks attracted over 700 attendees exploring reform patterns across the entire power spectrum.

Middle East Electricity 2018 was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Deputy Ruler, and was hosted by the UAE Ministry of Energy.

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"It's not something we can change overnight"

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