Satisfying ever-growing energy demand in a sustainable way has become “the world’s biggest challenge”, BP’s group chief executive Tony Hayward told the Oil and Money Conference in London.

"Meeting future energy needs has risen to the top of the global political and economic agenda", Hayward told delegates. “According to BP’s projections, we’ll need about 45 percent more energy in 2030 than we consume today."

The challenge is huge and requires clear plans and ‘unprecedented’ co-operation between governments and the private sector, Hayward said.

"We urgently need a road-map to take us towards this transition," Hayward said. "We need a road-map based on a clear and realistic understanding of the existing infrastructure, changing technology, economic incentives and the inevitable policy trade-offs we’ll face along the way. And to realize this, we need governments to commit themselves to a more active and pragmatic role."

But realism is needed, Hayward cautioned, because the transition to a lower-carbon economy won’t happen overnight.

"The sheer scale of the energy industry makes this impossible," Hayward said. "To give an example, it takes more than 30 years to turn over the capital stock in the power sector and 15 years for cars. At BP, we estimate that by 2030, fossil fuels will still be satisfying about 80 percent of our energy needs. So we’re talking about an evolution, not a revolution, in the energy mix. The journey will be hard and long since the aim is nothing short of re-engineering the entire global economy."

Hayward concluded by saying that although the challenge was huge, the stakes were too high to do nothing.

"We need to focus on being able to deliver a secure and sustainable energy supply in the coming years, because energy is fundamental to today’s way of life" Hayward said. "We have a big challenge here, but we can – and must – rise to it."