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Sergey Brilev's interview with Angela Wilkinson

Sergey Brilev: Hello Angela!

Angela Wilkinson: Hello!

Sergey Brilev: Whichever topic you use or save for the same St. Petersburg forum, you have your own 3 scenarios: ‘Modern Jazz’, ‘Unfinished symphony’, and what was the third one?

Angela Wilkinson: ‘Hard Rock’.

Sergey Brilev: Why?

Angela Wilkinson: Because when we talk to people around the world, we get a diversity of perspectives about the current situation and the future outlook. And to try enable more and better cooperative action. We can try and get everybody to think the same way or we can engage with that diversity as a strength. So, we look for different signals of change. We package them up. We say we can see three different futures unfolding in simultaneously. And we call these futures: ‘Unfinished Symphony’, ‘Hard Rock’, and ‘Modern Jazz’.

Sergey Brilev: This is the most fashionable one.

Angela Wilkinson: This is a story that is very popular amongst people who think that the future is really about technology and financial innovation.

Sergey Brilev: And the human being the center…

Angela Wilkinson: And the human centric system that will evolve around these technologies.

Sergey Brilev: Is it conceivable?

Angela Wilkinson: Well, the conversation we had this afternoon in Africa was, there is many strengths in this scenario, people like it for lots of things. The challenge of it, are we really going to accept that level of public scrutiny and lack of privacy, because it’s a data. It’s a world where there is a lot of transparency. People will know your habits. They’ll know how many people you have in your house, not just how much energy you use.

Sergey Brilev: So, the scenario, which is more conceivable, is ‘Unfinished symphony’, is it?

Angela Wilkinson: ‘Unfinished symphony’ is the scenario that popular with people who think that future is really going to be about the coordination between governments but more than that also the cooperation between, let’s call them, subnational units. In this world, we have cooperation that we can manage not just at a local level, but national level and the regional level. So, ‘Unfinished symphony’ has high a cooperation premium, but it’s a little slower in a way it can do some of the innovation because of that.

Sergey Brilev: ‘Hard Rock’ sounds old-fashioned, although for many people it’s very modern sort of music. But that’s how we lived in the end of the last century, I say. Where countries compete. Countries trying to control the markets. Don’t you think that national governments will actually prefer the ‘Hard Rock’ scenario?

Angela Wilkinson: When we were in 24th Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi last year, we asked people which of these scenarios did they see the most signals for. And we also asked that question in 2016. In 2016, they say the future is going to be ‘Unfinished Symphony’.  In 2019, they said they see the most signals for ‘Hard Rock’. So, we asked ourselves. Why? Why do we see this? Is this only nationalistic scenario? There are two things going on in ‘Hard Rock’. One is that it’s possible these days to do security on much more localised scale in a decentralised world. And may be some of the national cooperation logics aren’t as clear as it used to be.  So, we can think of ‘Hard Rock’ as a scenario which has fragmentation geopolitically but we can also think of it in terms of there are greater opportunities for local security.

Sergey Brilev: Here is the difficult one. Especially here in the developing world. Cause when we talk to the Europeans and they say. Ok, do you want to live in a clean London or clean Moscow? People say ‘yes’. Not everyone agrees with a possible triple tariff for the electricity, because we use modern technologies. But people have been asked to incline towards them. When you say the same to the people in rural areas of Africa or Latin America even in Eurasia. How do you sell the idea of more solar, more wind in comparison with the traditional energy. Whilst, the traditional energy is too cheap, I think.

Angela Wilkinson: There are two things. I have to separate those out. One is what renewables represent. They represent green or they represent cheap. And the answer is both. So, what is the customer buying? Are they buying cheaper? The possibility of cheaper access? Or they also buying the possibility of creating in rural Africa. Both of these possibilities are there. When you are in London, or in St. Petersburg, you’ve got already developed energy system, so you thinking much more about green choices or convenient choices. How we decarbonise the system if that our choice? In Africa they are 2% of global emissions in greenhouse gases. They need more energy. And the question is when they want to get more energy, do they want it green, or do they want it cheap. And the answer is they want it cheap and green, cause it allows them to have rural energy communities that can service their own equipment. That has a limit though in terms of what uses you can have, right? If you want industrialization as well as clean cooking and clean lighting and transport, you need a different energy system.

Sergey Brilev: Precisely, I was talking earlier today to Mr.Tella, who is the President of Electricity Utilities Union in Afriсa, and he says that we want industrial development, and for us the most viable option is hydro and national gas. Which is not exactly fashionable with the Europeans, with their decarbonisation policies. How do you pull two things together?

Angela Wilkinson: I think there is three narratives going on simultaneously globally. One of those is of course the decarbonisation narrative, and it comes from a certain region of the world.

Sergey Brilev: Europe.

Angela Wilkinson: There is a utilisation narrative. Circular carbon neutralization, which is coming out of other regions of the world. And in Africa they have a clean, affordable and faster access transition narrative going on. And I think the decabornisation narrative can be interpreted broadly or narrowly. It can be a broad narrative of zero carbon emissions, which can include nuclear energy, net zero carbon emissions. And can include gas plus CCS (carbon capture and storage). Or it can be very ideologically driven. Decarbonisation scenario, in which it’s only zero emissions energy and that’s the renewables only. And we see this even if you call it the decarbonisation scenario. There are shades of blue and green in that scenario.

Sergey Brilev: We at the ‘Global Energy’ had a series of lectures that lasts two weeks. We had the Russian Minister of Energy. Well, his stance it’s obvious. We had UN people from UNIDO and UNEP, they gave slightly different angle, which they prefer. We also had someone called Leonid Grigoriev. He is a Russian Professor and quite popular in this circles.  What he says that essentially the amount of CO2 emissions reduced in Europe is equal to the amount of CO2 emissions produced outside of Europe for producing products, which are then imported to Europe. Is it hypocrisy or not?

Angela Wilkinson: Well, I think even Europe will recognise that you can’t have a strategy which is locally clean and globally dirty. And the challenge the Europe is facing is not just how they decarbonise but also how do they shift to the next industrial paradigm. And they are trying to solve both of these things at once. So, we might see certain carbon economy coming out in the Middle East but we certainly see the circular city scale economy coming out of Europe. Both of them have energy needs, and they will be serviced by that, but I don’t think … I think it’s too simplistic to say it’s hypocrisy. I think Europe is not just pushing decarbonisation.

Sergey Brilev: No, it was what he said, I called…

Angela Wilkinson: No, I think it’s trying to think about decarbonisation and let’s call it new industrialisation at the same time.

Sergey Brilev: Ok, it comes 2022, all of us are in St. Petersburg with all sorts of different factions. Not what necessarily geographical terms, there are different factions of thought: greener, bluer, cleaner, cheaper, whatever. How do you put all these people together?  

Angela Wilkinson: So, that’s the whole purpose of the world energy community is that we recognise that there are multi local perspectives. There is regional diversity in energy systems, and there is still need to come together to speak as one voice, and the key to that is not to force consensus but to create sufficient alignment for collaboration and that’s what we do, we look for sufficient  alignment. We don’t look for full consensus because there is no consensus in a world, which has diverse requirement, needs and perspectives.

Sergey Brilev: Democracy in international relations?

Angela Wilkinson: And energy democracy and diplomacy, we hope.

Sergey Brilev: We will see you in April in Moscow?

Angela Wilkinson: You will.

Sergey Brilev: See you there, thank you. 

 

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