Eastern Europe

The Clean Regulatory Transition Project — Jan Rosenow (47)

Jan Rosenow – Regulatory Transition Project

This week we speak with Jan Rosenow, the Director of European Programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project. The word, ‘project’ as Jan tells us, was meant to be a project to assistant regulators to build better utility regulation. The project operates in China, Europe, India, and the United States.

From this episode, you’ll learn about the importance of regulation in the energy transition. Markets are not free, but depend on good (and bad) regulation to create market conditions that deliver outcomes that society wants. Of course, there is a heavy dose of politics in this mix, but the main thrust is to protect the consumer.

As Jan tells us, regulation is not just regulation implemented by energy regulators, but also comprises policies that shape the markets.

From a personal point of view, I love regulation. This will sound very odd, but one of the joys of living in the EU is we have so much regulation to study and understand the impact of both a multilateral institution, like the EU, but also the actions of governments and how they implement regulation is such diverse actions.

Jan Rosenow

I was really excited when Jan agreed to come onto the podcast to discuss what the Regulatory Assistance Project does, and to focus on regulation’s role in the energy transition. This episode delivers with both a general discussion on regulation in the first half and by the second half, we work our way through the role of regulation in the EU and the new Fit for 55 and Green Deal directives that are coming out.

However, I want to emphasize the eloquent way that Jan answers all my questions on regulation. Jan has a rare and true skill to be able to express the role of regulation plays in both abstract terms but also through examples. And I think what I’m saying here, doesn’t do justice to how he explains the importance and differences regulation plays in the energy transition. 

The energy transition requires forward-leaning regulations that both push and pull new technologies in the marketplace. In this episode, you’ll learn both how this is done and why it is done.

Transcript of our discussion

The Virtual Power of a Polish Energy Entrepreneur — Bartosz Kwiatowski (Ep 45)

Episode 45: Bartosz Kwiatowski

This week we speak with Bartosz Kwiatowski the director of the Polish Liquid Gas Association. I’ve known Bartok for over a decade and he is always a well of knowledge on the Polish energy scene and broader developments in Europe. So why is today’s episode important to listen? You’ll gain a greater understanding of the role that nuclear power and hydrogen could play in the Polish energy mix. In our discussion, we provide both a historical account of why Poland is reliant on coal and how it can transition out from coal. As Bartok points out, the dramatic increase in solar PV use in the country, or the development of energy clusters in towns contrasts the national push for coal.

Bartok has also been active in the start-up scene, trying to get a virtual power plant operating with a range of businesses. Bartok recounts the difficulty of having a small energy company – it saves energy, but it does not attract money to expand, because of its ability to save energy. Listen in, and you’ll get the account of why attracting VC funding is hard at a small scale. Towards the end, we do cover the role of liquid gas fuels – this is important when we consider how we shift people cooking and heating to using gas produced from biofuels.

In this week’s episode, we take on a range of issues providing a broader perspective of developments in Poland, but also within the EU. You’ll learn of the complexities of decarbonizing the energy system in both large and small scale projects.

Beyond Oil? Carbon neutrality by 2050 — Adam Czyzewski (Ep 44)

Adam Czyzewski – Episode 44

This week we speak with Adam Czyzewski, the chief economist at PKN Orlen. I’ll describe PKN Orlen as a diversifying oil and gas firm.

I got the opportunity to sit down with Adam while I was in Warsaw and I’m extremely grateful for his time and his willingness to share his thoughts on the energy transition. It is possible that some listeners may object to my conversational style sit-down with a representative of the oil and gas world. I remember a conference I attended in 2019 when the Chief Economist for Equinor got not only a frosty reception but a hostile reception from the academic and policy audience at a conference on ‘Beyond Oil’.

My approach to understanding and assisting in the energy transition is to listen to a range of opinions. In this interview, you’ll learn that Adam – before he joined PKN Orlen 12 years ago, was an outsider himself. He shares his perspective and questioning of the sustainability around not just fossil fuels but global consumption of energy and materials. Even, as he points out – that plastic turned out to be too cheap and good for a consumer society. Nonetheless, the lightweight and durable properties of plastic make it useful for the energy transition.

Adam provides a pivotal acknowledgment and voice that says, yes, our present consumption patterns are not environmentally sustainable – but he also outlines how an oil and gas firm CAN make the transition to be carbon neutral by 2050. This seems unbelievable from an oil and gas firm. At least, I was highly skeptical before speaking to him. But as you’ll hear, more than what I thought, could actually be achievable. Particularly, when you consider how the firm is diversifying into wind farms and investing in developing new technologies.

Adam Czyzewski – Beyond oil

Depending on where you live and your background, you may be dismissive of what can we learn from a Polish oil and gas firm. As dedicated as the Polish government appears to be towards coal, it is important to understand the world, technology and firms are changing regardless of what is in the headlines. It may be a question of how fast we make the transition, or can we really believe fossil fuel firms will get rid of their fossil fuels? These are points for arguments. But at least from this interview, you’ll gain an understanding of the market forces at work that keep fossil fuels as petrochemical feedstocks in the near – if not distant – future.

One of the reasons I wanted to start a podcast was to share some of the interviews I have with experts while doing research. I’ve interviewed Adam in the past and I always found him very knowledgeable and holding a broad view of energy markets. In this episode, you’ll get more than an insight into the workings of oil and gas markets. You’ll get a thoughtful discussion on where companies are heading as they lower their carbon outputs and invest more into lower or zero-carbon technologies.

Transcript of episode

Prepare for Impact: The EU’s Energy Transition — Miroslav Lopour (Ep 42)

Episode 42 – Miroslav Lopour

This week we speak with Miroslav Lopour, he is a Senior Manager of the Energy and Resources team at Deloitte Czech Republic.

We have a wide-ranging discussion about how the Czech Republic is preparing for the energy transition.  What you’ll learn from our conversation is a unique perspective on the EU’s Eastern Member States. I found Miroslav has the ability to express in a precise manner both the social and political resistance and reluctance to participate in an energy transition. As you’ll hear in our discussion about the coming electric car revolution, Miroslav articulates why there is reluctance in the country, to move away from the internal combustion engine, and even coal.

He discusses an inherent conservatism in former communist countries which makes politicians and society reluctant to fully participate in a clean energy transition. I think our conversation provides an in-depth understanding of this reluctance to change, not just in the Czech Republic but in the broader region of Eastern Europe.

Miroslav Lopour – Deloitte

If I can think of one reason you should listen to our discussion today, it is to understand why certain countries are slow on the uptake and deployment of policies and technologies that deliver a clean energy. There is justifications for why countries move slow. Understanding the reasons can assist in developing policies and help us all transition to a cleaner future – not just a few countries.

As I mentioned we discuss a range of topics, but threaded through our conversation is the difficulty to change industry and technologies. Regardless of the reluctance, as Miroslav points out, the money from the EU is here – and ready to fund the transition. Therefore the Czech Republic is about to ramp up their activities and join the transition.

I think our conversation is an important milestone. We need to revisit the expectations expressed in this interview in a few years. Let’s see if what the EU is promising in retooling industry and assisting people and regions, to move away from coal, does have a positive impact.

Russia‘s Energy Chains of Value and Power — Margarita Balmaceda (Ep. 37)

This week we speak with Professor Margarita M. Balmaceda about her new book, Russian Energy Chains (2021), published by Columbia University Press, as part of the Woodrow Wilson Center series. She was on the My Energy 2050 podcast in episode 12. And we are very grateful for her to come back for launching her new book. We managed to meet in person during her visit to Budapest this week. But as you’ll hear, our conversation moves rapidly around the issues of fossil fuels and the value chains that extend from Russia all the way to Germany.

Margarita was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as her profile at, Seton Hall University states,  “her professional life has centered in the USA and Eastern Europe.” But as we know from her previous publications, on Eastern Europe, including ‘Living the High Life in Minsk’ and ‘The Politics of Energy Dependency’, in addition to numerous journal articles, she is a leading scholar on Post Soviet issues and places involving the energy sector. She is also an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. Overall, because of her research and insight, she should be nominated as an honorary citizen of the Post-Soviet world.

Her book, Russian Energy Chains will be the leading and most authoritative book on the subject of post-Soviet energy relations. What does that mean and why is it important?

Margarita Balmaceda

This podcast is focused on the energy transition. By having Margarita document the value flows – that is who benefits and who doesn’t of the flow of oil, gas, and coal from the Russian heartland to Europe, she documents a way of life and of profits from fossil fuel extraction. And as we address toward the end of the interview, a way of life and means of governance will be under threat as the EU and other countries implement strong policies to move away from the fossil fuel era.

The point here is the topic of understanding the value created from fossil fuel extraction, shipping and usage demonstrate – as she outlines in chapter 1 – the role of power relations in the energy system. If we hope to phase out fossil fuels, we will need to address these power relations of the old (fossil fuel) order and the new (renewable) order. Russia – and the relations between EU Member States hold a strong rooting in energy – this relationship will need to be renegotiated and Margarita’s book lays down what these relations were built on, and the areas where they could change.

Links

Profile Margarita Balmaceda – Seton Hall University (shu.edu)

Amazon.com: Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Woodrow Wilson Center Series) eBook : Balmaceda, Margarita M.: Kindle Store

Making Romania Fit for 55 — Radu Dudau

potential to build a strong renewable energy portfolio with a good natural environment in the Danube Delta and investor interests.  The European Commission wants to push the country towards 40% of renewables in the next few years. In short, Romania holds the potential to shift away from coal and embrace renewables.

The Balconies of Lives: Representing Eastern European Energy

What is energy? This broad question is one I tackle each day. And for each person, it means different things. In the social sciences, I like to say it is the way we go about our day. How we live, how we move, and what we consume. It is not only in the physical consumption and use of energy, but how the environment around us responds to our habits, desires, and ways of living.

The task to represent what energy is, and what this means through a cultural lens just became harder for me. Now, after finishing my book, ‘Energy Cultures’, focused on Eastern Europe it is with the publisher, Edward Elgar. But I still have the task of finding and choosing the cover image. I’ve selected a few with two described below.

This first picture is of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Visaginas Lithuania. This is a great picture because it represents both the nuclear capability of the Soviet Union. It is in Lithuania, a former USSR republic. And it shows the planned industrial architecture of the nuclear power plant and the surrounding nature neatly manicured around the industrial facility. Lithuania, now an EU member state, symbolizes both the dramatic political-economic changes of the region, but also a reorientation of the society.

The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Visaginas, Lithuania. Screenshot from Adobe Stock, since I didn’t pay for it.

The second picture, and the one I’ll probably go with, shows a typical modern residential building in Wroclaw, Poland. What struck me here was the representation of the built infrastructure and the everyday energy consumption of the people. It is in our daily lives that we create a culture, and we create our own energy cultures through our lived experiences, even when we don’t think about it. The utilitarian building here with the recessed balconies is reminiscent of the panel houses dominate in Eastern Europe. Each apartment displays a limited but functional living space. The lack of expression of individuality in these buildings also confines the inhabitants to a defined way of living. Shading on the side of the building, bars on the railings, provide a representation of jail constraining the dwellers.   

Building in Wroclaw, Poland Source: Wiktor Karkocha https://unsplash.com/photos/Dt3y3dQR6Qk

It turns out the focus on balconies also caught the attention of documentary filmmakers. ‘Enter Through the Balcony’ provides a more in-depth perspective of the conversion of balconies in Ukrainian life. The trailer does a good job of capturing this push for more personal space and against the structure imposed by the state. That is, by the state giving people accommodation, they needed to accept smaller living spaces. But in their everyday lives, they pushed out for more space and representation of how they live, despite what architects and the state-imposed on them.

Representing cultural practices in the energy system only requires looking at two sides of how people live and what they do. There is surface level practices, such as how people drive, walk, or take a bus. But there are also the deeper structures that force people to live their lives or influences their choices of transport modes. Such as government funding for roads or public transport. Even deeper is understanding the interplay between government funding and ownership and interests in transport companies or relations between countries and firms. For example, Russian nuclear power plants provide huge amounts of electricity to power public transport and reduce oil imports. Under the Soviet System, when nuclear technology was essentially free and used as a geopolitical tool (as it is today) but oil could be used for generating hard currency, the choice of energy infrastructure also influenced the types of transport available for people. Restrictions on buying cars also limited personal transport options. The cultural practices of society were influenced by the energy infrastructure.

Energy, and understanding, ‘What is energy?’ provides the means to explore and engage with our everyday lives. This engagement exposes the role of the state and the power of those leading the state. It also shows what society expects and accepts in their everyday. The built environment and our balconies are only one representation of this. But how to represent this in one picture or one object? How do we succinctly represent our everyday practices? Maybe I can just use a picture of me on my Budapest balcony where I write in every season but winter. In the early spring and late fall an electric heater helps me start the day. Thus, even the production of this blog represents the production of own everyday energy culture in Eastern Europe.

My writing space in my Budapest veranda. With pre-socialist windows.

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