EQUINORS AUTUMN CONFERENCE, OSLO (E24): The head of the International Energy Agency believes that the search for new oil and gas fields could be a bad investment. In addition, it could endanger the climate issue.
– We are in the middle of the first global energy crisis, says the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol from the stage during the Autumn Equinor Conference.
– But when we look back at this moment, ten years from now, I think this year will not only be remembered as a global energy crisis, but as a turning point in the history of the transition to clean energy, he says.
It is the sixteenth year that the fall conference has been organized. The conference is a collaboration between Equinor, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The background to this year’s conference is Europe facing an energy crisis: Russia has cut gas supplies to the continent, Germany has restarted coal-fired power plants to ensure enough power for the winter and electricity prices are skyrocketing. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced.
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A pillar in energy security in Europe
Birol believes that today’s energy crisis is the most comprehensive the world has faced. He points out that Russia is the dominant energy source, and that the country is invading Ukraine.
– We see a new order in the energy sector, he says.
He noted that geopolitical turmoil creates challenges. Russia has reduced gas supplies to Europe, and this is causing major disruptions to the flow of energy globally.
– I would like to thank Norway for increasing its exports to Europe at a difficult time, and once again showing itself as a reliable supplier to Europe.
– Birol added that Norway is a pillar of energy security in Europe.
When asked if Norway should share some of its profits, Birol answered quite diplomatically. The IEA chief said he recognized that Norway also had its challenges, but that they would be compatible with Norway’s role as a responsible and global player. However, he did not go into details.
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New oil fields should not be searched for
At the same time, Birol made it clear that Norway does not need to search for new oil and gas fields.
We need Norwegian oil and gas to replace Russian oil and gas, but this must be produced from existing sources and fields. Birol told E24 that we have to ramp up production from there.
Making big new investments in oil and gas can be risky for two reasons: first, it will jeopardize the climate issue, and second, if you invest in a new oil field today, production will come in seven or eight years later. At the time, Birol said, we may not need to increase production – and therefore it may be a bad investment.
In May 2021, the International Energy Agency presented its plan for zero emissions in the energy sector, “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.” Here too, it is clear that the International Energy Agency believes that the world does not need to search for new oil and gas fields after 2021.
The plan contradicts what Birol mentioned earlier, which is that “The world needs every drop of Norwegian oile “.
Nuclear power is on its way back.
Then the head of the International Energy Agency enthusiastically spoke to E24 about nuclear energy, which he believes is now being developed in many countries.
– Birol said that nuclear energy is returning to all parts of the world.
He listed a number of countries working on new plans for nuclear energy. Japan, Korea, Netherlands, France, UK, USA, Canada, China and India.
– It’s coming back because people realize it’s one of the safe sources of electricity, says Birol.
In addition, the new SMR technology is receiving a lot of interest, says the head of the International Energy Agency. SMR stands for Small Modular Reactor, which is a new type of nuclear reactor that differs from conventional reactors.
– SMR is easier to fund, and it’s more flexible. Birol says there is a very long waiting list for applications across developing and developed countries to become part of the SMR world.
Strong growth in solar and wind energy development
From the podium, Birol indicated that measures such as the RePowerEU in Europe and the US Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the Japanese, Indian and Chinese plans, will be able to accelerate the restructuring of the energy sector.
This is happening at the same time that countries like Germany are restarting coal-fired power plants to have enough electricity for the winter of 2022 and 2023.
– We should not look at these small measures in the short term, but look at the big picture. Many governments around the world are providing large sums of money to speed up the transition. One of them is the United States with its law to reduce inflation. It’s putting on the table $400 billion in tax incentives and subsidies for things like batteries, solar cells, electrolyzers, electric cars, and so on. Birol says it will change the United States.
He went on to say that Europe had never before experienced such a strong growth in the development of solar and wind energy.
– He says that energy security is a strong driver for investment in renewable energy.
– turning point
In the IEA’s flagship report, published earlier this fall, the Paris-based agency said the global energy transition could accelerate after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and higher energy prices over the past year.
“The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused fundamental and long-term changes that have the potential to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy system,” the IEA wrote in a press release.
In the report, Birol said the response of governments around the world could make the Ukraine war a historic and definitive turning point for a cleaner, cheaper and safer energy system.
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