Next week, Marina and I will be traveling to Windsor outside London for the Winder Energy Consultation. This marks the 18th consecutive annual Consultation to be held at Windsor Castle.
The three days of meetings are conducted under the provisions of a royal charter granted by Queen Elizabeth II, and are always held early in March while the royal family is in residence at the castle.
Oh yes, one of the many cool things about this Consultation is that we also get to stay at the castle.
This is a very small and restricted gathering. It is by invitation only and encompasses a select group of the world’s most knowledgeable energy experts, practitioners, and policy makers from six continents. We conduct frank discussions under the Chatham House Rule.
The Rule – yes, with a capital R – owes its origin to a particularly cantankerous diplomatic negotiation held under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, located at Chatham House in London, in June of 1927. Those discussions were about to collapse until the Rule was instituted.
The Rule states: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”
On more than one occasion, the Rule has provided “cover” for some very direct and heated conversations at Windsor.
From “The Merry Wives of Windsor” to Energy Consultation in the Very Same Room
Windsor Castle happens to be the world’s oldest royal residence still in use.
All the sessions with the exception of one take place in Vicar’s Hall, the same room where Shakespeare presented the first performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” That Shakespearean presentation was to Elizabeth I somewhere around 1597!
However, on Saturday, several of the experts provide a briefing to assembled ambassadors and ministers.
This “Ambassadorial Briefing” by tradition is held in the castle’s dungeon.
As veteran Oil & Energy Investor readers well know, I have been a fixture at these meetings, having had the distinct privilege of addressing the plenary sessions and briefing the ambassadors at each of the last eight Windsor Consultations.
Dr. Moors addressing the plenary session, Vicar’s Hall, Windsor Castle
Dr. Moors and Paul Tempest, former Bank of England principal and Director General of the World Petroleum Council, leading the ambassadors to the traditional “Dungeon Briefing,” Windsor Castle
Dr. Moors’ ambassadorial “Dungeon Briefing,” Windsor Castle
Upon occasion, spirited exchanges continue well “outside” the meeting venue…
And the Rule’s official application.
Below is a photo of Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko and I expanding upon points we made during a session while walking the Windsor Castle grounds. Following closely behind us in the car is the ever-present Russian security.
These conversations often bridge multiple meetings, and the ambassador and I will again take up the dialogue over dinner next week.
And this year, we will be meeting against a backdrop of geopolitical events having a decisive impact on the energy sector.
Geopolitics Will Fuel These Discussions
There are several major geopolitical situations occurring as I write this.
The UK may come crashing out of the European Union, Qatar will have left OPEC, Venezuela (and its extensive crude oil reserves) may fall into a civil war, Libya has already been in one for some time, and the Cold War 2.0 is continuing, all before the end of March.
All this is likely to provide some additional fodder for the exchanges between the Russian ambassador and myself.
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For my part, there are some essential observations I will make both to those assembled and to the ambassadors.
My main topic will address integrating the next stage of global energy investment, and it will encompass updates of some themes I have discussed at previous Consultations.
But this year there is a rising urgency, and for three reasons.
First, the new energy balance I have discussed for the past several years here in Oil & Energy Investor has taken off in earnest.
As other Windsor participants from OPEC members will note, even nations relying on crude production for primary revenue flow are taking renewable energy seriously. Oil, natural gas, and coal may remain dominant worldwide for at least the next several decades, but the integration of new energy sources is advancing quicker than many had anticipated.
Second, the choices being made have a decisive impact on steps that must be taken to repair and expand a seriously deteriorating global energy infrastructure. This extends from energy production and generation, through transport and transmission, to retail distribution.
Ongoing estimates continue to show that aggregate international infrastructure expenditures are not rising to the levels required to meet projected needs, upon occasion, even replacement of elements well beyond useful life.
Of particular concern is the regional imbalance in where those funds are likely to go. At current trends, widening areas will far further behind in providing basic power and fuel. That provides a breeding ground for terrorist recruitment and declining security.
Third, and perhaps the most important of element what I intend to advance, involves the coordination of investment to address both the emerging energy balance and the accelerating infrastructure crisis.
Currently, there isn’t one.
My working proposal will advance a flexible international effort to bring together investment efforts from a range of public, private, institutional, development bank, multilateral agency, and energy company funding to more efficiently address needs while still providing for bottom lines having an acceptable return on investment.
As always, I will continue to update you next week while ensconced at Windsor Castle.
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