Sergey Brilev: Hello to all subscribersof the Global Energy Association. This is the continuation of our chats with the newly-appointed members of our Board of Trustees. And today we have as our guest Peter Wilding, who is joining us from Brussels. These days, how should I describe you? Are you British? Are you European? Who are you?
Peter Wilding: I still have my British passport of course….I remain a British citizen.
Sergey Brilev: Peter, of course, is the author, one of the “claimed” authors, not the self-proclaimed author, of the word “Brexit”. So he knows what he is talking about when he says “Europe”. And the little strip of water called the English Channel which still divides the UK from Europe. Or vice-versa, I don’t know. But Peter, seriously, when Britani left the European Union, suddenly we see a disappearance of the nuclear power lobby in the EU. Britain is living through a renaissance as far as nuclear energy is concerned. You still have France and you still have Belgium. But Germany obviously and famously is now against nuclear power. So when we talk about a European view of where energy should be going, is there a consensus?
Peter Wilding: No. Whilst there is a unified energy policy for Europe as you have just indicated this is subject to national decision-making as to specificity. Revelations about divisions familiar to you – we can only mention the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as one — plus there are also other examples such as energy deals between China and Balkan countries which are causing litigation at the moment. So the answer to your question is ‘no’.”
Is there likely to be? I can only see a power political dimension emerging which will instead of guiding energy policy by the necessities of the member-states, next year when we have a new German chancellor and a new French president, we could see some power politics developing. But there is no talk of that now. as you can imagine, the policy discussion has been silent because of Brexit but also because of the COVID problem and others too, including the United States. So is there a chance of one? I doubt it, but we will have to wait until next year for that.
Sergey Brilev: The reason I am asking is, of course, that we have three nominations in the process – conventional energy, non-conventional energy and new applications. I’m in a peculiar position. On the one hand, I have been talking to, say, a new member of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Tella of Africa, with whom we discussed things. And he is actually inclined to the idea that If you want to have a guaranteed flow of energy, you should not dismiss conventional energy, but at the same time when we promote our prize in the European environment, lots of people would say now “What conventional energy are you talking about?” We should be talking about new applications and non-conventional energy or at least a CO2- free energy, which is nuclear, but which is not readily accepted by Europe.
Peter Wilding: I see this discussion as focusing on the Global Energy Prize and on the Association. And as we discussed in December, there is a demand for innovative solutions and of course the Global Energy prize is centred on those solutions. So, consequently, I return to my view that with or without a united energy policy or a strong energy policy, the Global Energy Prize is well place to lobby or enable lobbying for specific types of energy solutions. Where there is a grey area, where there is policy confusion, it is there that I believe that we, the Global Energy Prize, can offer some alternative concepts in an interesting way. So I don’t mind that there isn’t a major energy initiative because I think that gives us the opportunity to establish new energy dialogues wherever we are.
Sergey Brilev: When you look at the horizons of the Global Energy Association, say at our annual reports, there is an interesting solution there offered, by the way by British scientists, that yes, CO2 affects global warming and only those who are interested in conspiracy theories say otherwise. So you must fight CO2. But you can still use natural gas and oil and even coal by capturing the CO2 that is produced in the process of burning and, say, pumping it into underground channels…that are a consequence of oil exploration. Its conceivable and yet, when you say something like that, a lot of people, especially in Europe say: “No, We don’t want to have any fossil fuels any longer.” Why is that? Is there a compromise?
Peter Wilding: There is a dominant narrative, which is that CO2 emissions must be reduced within a specific time frame. Rgulations have been imprsed on various industries, including the automobile industry, to achieve CO2 emission reduction. That is a campaign narrative. It is just reducing CO2 emissions by getting rid of fossil fuels. However we must realise that the governments of these states must achieve both objectives and I believe that states would seek to achieve the objectives of CO2 emissions reductions which are obviously in the Copenhagen Agreement and in national legislation as well as European legislation. But I see that as an opportunity because where the Global Energy Prize sits is to go to states and the scientists of those states and say: “We agree with that objective. But here is a way of achieving that objective which is simpler and smoother, which does involve the continued use of fossil fuels.” And the solutions which you have just presented are plainly solutions which if the Global Energy Prize is awarded to a scientist that, as you intimate, has produced this kind of solution or initiative then we promote them. The thing is the Global Energy Prize is a kind of shop window for solutions and that is to its credit. So that is my answer. Yes, you are right. It is because of the campaign narrative we have – Greta Thunberg etc. – but it doesn’t reflect reality on the ground and that is our position our opportunity our platform – to provide innovative solutions.
Sergey Brilev: That is the reason why we are now actively working with the United Nations and hopefully joining the COP debates in Glasgow at the end of the year. Rightly so, to discuss things like that. I don’t want to torture everyone here with endless conversations, but I should stress that both you and I have lived for many years in the South of this planet, or at least have travelled there extensively. We both speak Spanish, we know the region. There is another angle to the debate. It’s that, of course, everyone wants to live in Europe because Europe is clean and now that Europe is going to tax CO2 emissions elsewhere, people are saying how nice the Europeans are. At the same time the problem is that by using more renewable energy which, as of today, produces electricity that is two or three times more expensive what the EU does is it is cleaning its own environment, making prices high in the EU—it’s a separate question whether the consumer will accept that. But saying at the same time to the developing world, in order that we Europeans live cleanly you must pay extra either by paying an additional tax on what you produce in the developing world or by applying the same renewable technologies in the developing world which would mean double, triple prices for electricity. Peter, I may sound naïve, but is this fair?
Peter Wilding: I put it in the context of power politics here. The European Union is noted for something that has been called the Brussels effect, the soft power of regulatory change. Europe also sees itself as an environmental union. It is a polity in search of a project, if you like. And therefore it has sought to impose its power through regulatory authority on these other countries.
Is it fair? Well, I think the way of looking at it is that if the emissions in the world are greater in countries like China, how does the cop community impose its will? And the only way to do that, I fear, is to impose restrictions and potential price increases on those countries that are polluting. Whether it’s right or wrong is not relevant to the political imperative that the European Union sees itself as a role which it performs. So yeah, it doesn’t seem fair but life is not fair, global politics is not fair.
And as we saw as a little aside in the Brexit trade negotiations between the European Union and the UK, the palpable power difference between these two parties was clear to all.
So I have to accept Realpolitik, Sergey, as you accept it too.
Sergey Brilev: Our solution is that the scientists involved in the Global energy Prize Association work to produce more and more solutions and more and more suggestions and ideas as to how you can lower the costs of renewables and how you can make conventional energy cleaner. And that’s the reason why I, more than a year ago, eagerly accepted the offer by the founders of the association to head it, and why I am grateful to you and some of your colleagues who have accepted my offer to join the board of trustees. So I am looking forward to working more and more with you.
The only thing that I can’t really resolve at this time is how we are going to work offline in the near future. Statistically, we are very proud off the results achieved in this last year as far as the online viewership is concerned. The growth is by 600 %. Let me humbly inform you, dear member of the board of trustees, that we really face problem as to how we bring people together.
Can you now travel between Brussels and London at least?
Peter Wilding: Yes, only for essential reasons, with the possession of a COVID test.
Sergey Brilev: We’ll see what happens by mid-summer when we typically have the international committee get-together. We’ll see.
Mr Wilding, thank you so much for joining us. Let’s keep in touch and let’s work together.
Peter Wilding: Thank you very much, Sergey, for the invitation. And thank you to everyone at the Global Energy Prize. And I look forward to seeing you in the flesh when we can.