My Goals

My Goals

Written by Peter21

August 7, 2020

I have worked as a reporter and market analyst with some of the biggest information providers in the energy sector: Standard & Poors Platts, Reuters (now Refinitiv) and the Russian business data and technology business Interfax. I have also worked as a consultant with governments in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia; along with some of the biggest oil, gas and power companies in the world. Throughout this time, I have had a panoply of interesting economists, engineers and journalists from all over the world as colleagues and friends. I don’t know of any industry with a more diverse range of cultures, and the industry is gradually becoming more diverse in terms of gender, personality and ethnicity.

Reflecting on my career, I was struck by how little of my time was spent engaging with the people and communities who were affected by the energy industry. We would all talk with the people who had the money: the investors, the bankers, the upstream, midstream and downstream companies who were involved in the projects; the traders and brokers; and their advisors, from lawyers and consultants, to tax specialists and diplomats. But the only contact with local groups as a journalist was almost always through environmental pressure groups who purported to represent their views. And as a consultant, communities were only consulted by specialists conducting the environmental impact assessments (EIA), negotiating local content rules and policies, and higher beings responsible for corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Beyond technology

It struck me that this was indefensible. The energy industry should be there to serve the goals of these communities; ultimately, it is the public that pays their bills. It’s obvious to me now that people and communities should be engaged with at every stage of a project, and throughout the energy value chain from production and generation to the end use in the home or office, not just when a problem blows up or there is a scandal.

The dichotomy we currently face, between a public who wants to “Save the Planet” and an energy professional class which assumes it knows what is in the public interest, results directly from this disintermediation. A huge amount of mutual suspicion exists between these two camps.

In 2012, when I set up Resource Economist, I had envisaged a training company that would be capable of providing expert knowledge to customers from within the energy industry, and to outsiders in government, environmental organisations and local communities who want to cut through the jargon and get to grips with the real issues. I felt this would play to my strength as a journalist, which was to explain things in a simple and clear way, as well as an analyst and consultant, which was to provide an unbiased expert view.

Nowadays, I feel this was at one level too ambitious, and at another level, not ambitious enough.

  • Too ambitious, because most people have their minds already made up, depending on which camp they are in. The camps reflected were the binary categories of good/bad,  pro-industry/pro-environment, protest/collude, etc.
  • Not ambitious enough, because it sought simply to explain the industry through training courses in neutral terms, rather than to engage actively with the disparate communities that made up the energy sector as a whole, and to understand their motivation(s).

I have tried to refocus this website on the people who are responsible for the Energy Transition, from fossil fuels to cleaner sustainable forms of energy. In 2014, I began a series of interviews for the British Institute of Energy Economics, meeting with some of the most able and inspiring people in the energy sector, from government, community groups, CEOs of large companies, academics, start-up tech firms and a spectrum of others. Brief clips from many of these interviews are available on the BIEE website www.biee.org/videos.

Milestones

There are two other milestones I should mention.

In 2019, I flew to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada for a major gas conference in which I met members of the First Nations who had recently formed an alliance in support of the building of an LNG plant. The Wet’suwet’en First Nation were at the heart of this, reaching an agreement with Shell and a group of other investors that allowed the project and a gas pipeline to supply it to go ahead. The decision was hugely controversial. Shell and many in the gas industry saw it as a watershed, pouring out press releases extolling its virtues, while environmentalists reacted with dismay, and launched a furious and highly coordinated assault on those who had supported the project. The Wet’suwet’en were split.

I will do a separate post on what I learned (about myself as much as anything) from this dispute, but in short, it reflected a lack of communication that I believe mirrors the dichotomies mentioned above between “the industry” and “the environmental lobby”. I put these in inverted commas because in reality neither is as monolithic as it first seems, and a common dialogue between the two should be possible.

In August 2020, I bought an electric bike. After the Covid-19 crisis started, I spent the six months in lockdown rethinking where I wanted to take my career, and writing the draft of a book to be called Sustainable Transitions in Energy. The bike idea came to me about midway through writing this tome, which I realised would become one of many doorstopper tomes that everyone feels is worthy and no-one actually reads. My e-bike journey is at a very early stage (see the separate blog on easywheeling.com) but I thought it was important to take a stand by trying to go electric.

The Covid-19 crisis persuaded everyone I knew that they had been right all along ! It was like the mirror in the fairytale that told you only what you wanted to hear.

Aspirant Greens saw the collapse of the fossil fuel house of cards as energy demand plummeted and renewables took over. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry retrenched as it always does, shedding staff to deal with prices that were half what they had enjoyed before the crash, but confident that market mechanisms would see a revival of oil and gas demand over time.

My goal now is, as it was at the start, to explain the industry inside and out, to the best of my ability. But I want to do this through talking with people, not about technologies, but what motivates them — that mysterious thing called “purpose” that reflects our humanity, and makes us so much more than the statistical noise that economists use in their model. I am deeply aligned with Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, and I see the energy industry as a vehicle serving the needs and (often irrational) choices of people and communities.

This website is more extensive than I had originally planned, but it’s not because I have teams of people working for me. I have just drawn on the many materials I put out during my career as a journalist and analyst. But I hope it conveys my passion for the subject. Inevitably, because of the bias towards the large-scale players, it will take a while to develop my focus on people and communities. But it will happen over time. As well as delivering high-quality courses for energy professionals, I am determined to engage as much with communities, schools and even individuals, and to share what I have learned over the last thirty years so that everyone is better informed, I hope I will visit some of you on my electric bike.

 

Training and Mentoring

Resource Economist provides training, coaching and mentoring services for companies involved in energy and natural resources. 

Catalytic Learning

Resource Economist training courses cover all aspects of crude oil, refined products, natural gas and LNG, energy market fundamentals, power fuels and new energy. We specialize in delivering courses on market analysis, valuation and pricing, trading, forecasting and risk management.

Our courses involve delegates from the start in an active and participatory learning experience. Rather than the doctor-patient approach used by many training organizations, Resource Economist uses active learning methods based on coaching to maximize the knowledge and skills of delegates.

We recognize and actively harness the experience of all participants in the courses, creating a learning space that allows delegates to take risks and stretch their skills.

We work closely with companies to structure learning programmes that use their own in-house expertise to disseminate knowledge and skills. We do this through training videos, recorded interviews and written materials based on meetings with staff.

Coaching and mentoring

Resource Economist maintains contacts with experienced people across the energy sector who can coach and mentor individuals and teams.

Peter is a qualified executive coach and holds a PG Cert from Middlesex University in Psychosynthesis Leadership Coaching. He has provided mentoring to colleagues throughout his career, and is an enthusiastic advocate of using coaching as a way to motivate staff, as individuals and in teams.

Although they are often regarded as interchangeable, coaching and mentoring are actually quite different. Mentoring typically involves someone with experience passing on domain expertise, often as a way to supplement class-room knowledge with first-hand practical experience. Coaching typically is focussed more on attitudes than knowledge. A coach will seek to help an individual (or a team) to find answers from within. The focus is not so much on objective facts but on subjective realities, mindsets and feelings.

Finding the best way to help your staff or colleagues maximize their potential is one of the most important but also the most difficult challenges faced by companies. There is no single answer. Please call us to discuss your requirement.

 

Research and Consulting

Resource Economist provides top-class research on the key issues driving the energy and natural resource markets, with a particular focus on the interface between traditional fossil fuels and new energies such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Resource Economist is a corporate member of the British Institute of Energy Economics, and Peter has been a member of the BIEE Council since 2014 and has worked on a number of BIEE committees seeking members and sponsors, and organising the annual research and policy conferences in Oxford and London.

Resource Economist publishes research studies, white papers and briefings on energy pricing, data transparency, people and skills in the energy sector, and governance issues related to the development of energy and natural resources.

Peter has been an energy analyst for more than 30 years, and is a frequent speaker at industry events on oil and gas, as well as more recently on the energy transition. He provides advisory services as an associate at third-party consulting firms.

 

Rather than the doctor-patient approach used by many training organizations, Resource Economist uses active learning methods based on coaching to maximize the knowledge and skills of delegates.

 A coach will seek to help an individual (or a team) to find answers from within. The focus is not so much on objective facts but on subjective realities, mindsets and feelings

Peter is a qualified executive coach and holds a PG Cert from Middlesex University in Psychosynthesis Leadership Coaching. He has provided mentoring to colleagues throughout his career, and is an enthusiastic advocate of using coaching as a way to motivate staff, as individuals and in teams.

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Coal accounts for around a quarter of all energy produced globally. Its main use is for power generation, although it is also used in homes for winter heating, especially in poorer countries. The main advantage of coal is that it is abundant and easy to transport. Coal is usually sold on the open market in US dollars per tonne, although pricing can also be based on its calorific value, which varies greatly across the different grades of coal. These range from poor quality grades such as lignite that produce relatively little energy to high density grades such as anthracite which are more costly and often have specialist uses.

COAL

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Many power companies use coal to fuel their power generation plants because it is cheap. Reserves of coal are found all round the world, and the amount of coal under the earth far exceeds the reserve of oil and gas. Coal is much less subject to the geopolitical pressures that lead to such intense volatility in oil and gas prices. But there are hidden costs. Coal is a much more pollutive energy source than oil and gas, although because it is mainly used for power generation in developed countries, it often escapes the attention of environmentalists. In many lesser developed countries, particularly in South and South East Asia, coal is still used in the home and has an enormous health impact, causing diseases from bronchitis to cancers.

  • Coal: Percentage of primary Energy Demand 24% 24%

Oil: A Slow Twilight

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Crude Oil and Refined Products

Oil has powered the modern age, but at a cost. Oil powers cars, planes, ships and trucks, and most manufactured goods from packaging to paper contain petrochemicals derived from oil. 

Gas: Solution or Problem?

Gas has emerged as a strong growth area, given its cleaner carbon profile compared to other fossil fuels. Natural gas comprises primarily methane, and can be liquefied and transported in special ships as Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG. But two other forms of gas could play a role in the energy transition: propane and butane can be liquefied to make Liquefied petroleum Gas, or LPG, and both fuels are increasingly used in lower income and developing countries, and have a much lower carbon footprint than diesel and heavy fuel oil which they tend to replace. Meanwhile, ethane is used in some countries as a petrochemical feedstock. Methane, ethane, propane and butane are all hydrocarbon fuels, although it’s also possible to make methane as a bio-gas, for instance by using waste materials. 

Natural Gas and NGLs

As demand for lower carbon fuels increases, methane and other gases have emerged as alternatives to liquid fuels. But they still emit harmful hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. 

Renewables and Scale

Renewables include a range of energy sources including solar power, onshore and offshore wind, tidal and wave power, geothermal energy, biofuels including biomass, biogases and algae, and in some narratives hydropower is included. All of these energy sources have the potential to generate electricity, but the problem faced by all of them is scale and cost. Building renewable energy on the scale required to meet the energy needs of the growing world population in a way that is cost effective is a huge challenge. So far, solar and wind are emerging as the clear winners. Costs have been reduced significantly as the industry has scaled up. But the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. The problem of intermittency requires that backup energy sources — from energy storage or low carbon gases — are available.

Renewables

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From Little Seeds

Only 5% of the world’s energy comes from renewable sources like solar and wind power, but that’s a significant increase from just 2% at the start of the last decade (2010). The share of renewables in overall primary energy demand varies greatly by geographical region, from negligible amounts in Russia and the CIS to around 10% of the total in Europe and the Americas. China was the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy in recent years, and renewables now account for nearly 5% of the energy used in the world’s most populous country. Whether this will continue to grow will be influenced heavily by politics: the Paris Agreement in 2015 followed a historic alignment of Chinese and US interests, but this is now threatened by the trade war between the two superpowers. The trajectory of economic growth after the Covid-19 virus and global lockdowns is also at stake.

Hydropower

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Energy and Water

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The geopolitics of water

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Mining communities offer suffer from the intensive development of resources, particularly when working conditions are unsafe and jobs are poorly paid.

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Resource Costs

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An Interconnected World

This section on energy and resources has emphasised throughout that there is no simple solution that will “save the planet”. Meeting the scale of global energy needs is a huge challenge, and every solution has pros and cons. There is no silver bullet. This is not a recipe to do nothing, but it reflects the reality that systemic change has potential consequences that need to be thought through carefully. All eco-systems are interconnected, just as are all human beings: as the poet John Donne put it, “No man is an island / Entire of self”. No man (or woman) exists in a bubble; we all have an impact on each other. Rather than providing blanket solutions, Resource Economist believes that specific pathways should be selected depending on local resources and needs.

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