Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Danish national energy company Orsted, has held offshore wind power aloft as a prime example of how governments enshrining “clear and ambitious targets [to] provide investment visibility for the private sector” could spur the global build-out needed to accelerate the shift away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.

Speaking yesterday at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, Poulsen said the government-supported build-out of offshore wind — which in five years has seen its levelised cost of energy drop more than 60% to below that of coal- or gas-fired power — could drive the needed “innovation, [further] cost reductions, and large-scale deployment”.

“When governments around the world assembled in this room set ambitious targets and enact clear policies, the private sector can and will further accelerate the build-out of green energy,” he said.

“And this is urgently needed to speed up the retirement of old coal-fired power plants and to put an end to the construction of new coal-fired capacity.”

Poulsen underlined that the renewable energy technologies “need[ed] to fundamentally transform the energy system and radically reduce emissions are at our disposal – and they're cost-efficient”.

The Orsted chief, who spearheaded the transition of the utility from an oil & gas company to a pure-play renewables developer with the world’s largest offshore wind portfolio, said the shift to clean-energy would call for “near-term sacrifices to get it done [as] business as usual is indeed not going to be enough”.

“We can't tell our grandchildren that we failed to protect the planet because we were too focused on protecting our own well-being. We must act now,” he said.

Orsted has budgeted to spend over $23bn to deploy an industry-leading 15GW of offshore wind globally by 2025 and in May agreed to buy a “significant” solar and storage pipeline in the US as part of its ongoing diversification into other renewables with the acquisition of the development unit of Coronal Energy.

The UN Climate Action Summit is being held against the backdrop of a World Meteorological Organization report that forecasts global temperatures are on track to rise 2.9°C-3.4°C by 2100, a heating catastrophically higher than the 1.5-2°C targeted by the 2015 Paris Agreement.