Presidents Column: March 2019

ISES Sets its Work Priorities for the Next 3-5 Years


The ISES Board of Directors held its annual face-to-face meeting in Freiburg, Germany on 14-16 March with the specific purpose of solidifying its priority work for 2019 and identifying key strategic goals for the first half of the next decade. The majority of the Board was able to attend, and there was an abundance of lively discussion that resulted in some key principles the Society will focus on in the years to come.


The Board strongly recognizes the urgency of mitigating human caused climate change. Recent reports, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Global Warming of 1.5 0C”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program “Climate Change Special Report”, show clearly and decisively that exceeding global warming beyond 1.5 - 2 0C above preindustrial levels can result in catastrophic and irreversible changes in our climate system. We are already approaching a warming of 1 0C, and just recently the IEA reported that 2018 saw the largest (1.7%) year-over-year carbon dioxide emission increase since 2013, reversing a trend of several years of flat growth. In order to prevent this global warming threshold to be exceeded, the complete decarbonization of our entire end-use energy system by around 2050, just over 30 years from now, must be achieved. The 2018 carbon dioxide emission report shows that we are not at all on track to avoid exceeding this limit. 


But the Board also strongly recognizes that clean, carbon-free renewable technologies have recently become the most cost-effective means to provide new electrical power generation throughout much of the world. From a technical perspective, decarbonizing the entire end use energy sector is also now feasible: For example, the transport sector can be decarbonized using renewable electricity and second-generation biofuels, and our heating requirements (which represent nearly half of all of our end-use consumption) can be decarbonized through use of modern solar thermal systems, electrification of the end-use sector, and use of other renewables such as geothermal heat and modern bioenergy. The Board feels strongly that renewable technologies are already in place to achieve full decarbonization within the urgent time frame we are facing, and that technology innovation will continue to increase reliability and bring down costs. What is needed is the political will and the access to private financing to make this rapid decarbonization a reality. ISES will place even more focus on its efforts to bring this message of a positive solution to the climate urgency to its stakeholders, the broader public community and especially to global decision makers.


A second major strategy for ISES will be to further promote energy access for all. Several years ago, the UN established a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were updates and revisions of the earlier Millennium Development Goals. SDG #7 is also known as Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), and ISES is working to support the achievement of these goals. In our activities of the next 3-5 years we will emphasize the technical rationale for a significant portion of new energy supply to be provided as distributed energy, where the energy source is installed very close to the load, such as in the case of rooftop solar or off-grid solar home systems and micropower facilities. Although access to reliable clean energy sources has been expanding around the world, there are still many unmet areas, especially in South Asia and Africa, where grid expansion to serve isolated communities is completely impractical. In order to achieve our vision of 100% renewable energy, used efficiently and wisely, considerable effort must still be made to ensure that the nearly 2 billion unserved people can have access to reliable electrical services.


Most important, ISES is focused on providing added value to its individual and corporate members. The Board is looking at ways to adjust our membership procedures to provide improved benefits to its current members and to attract a broader global membership. This in turn will strengthen the means by which ISES can serve its members through its ongoing programs: The Webinar series, the Solar Energy Journal, on-line publications, ISES Conferences and Congresses, Young ISES programs, and more.


One area in which we are working is to identify means by which more members can play an active role in the Society’s programs through a Committee structure that was formalized during the Board meeting. Current committees include topics such as outreach (including webinars and publications), conferences and congresses, and membership benefits, and procedures are underway to provide opportunities for participation from ISES members at large.


Thank you for your support of ISES, and, as always, I look forward to any feedback and suggestions you might have as to how ISES can better serve its global membership.

This article was written by:

Dr. David Renné

ISES Immediate Past President