We continue the interview with Professor Chalvatzis
PART 1: http://steamgreen.unibo.it/2017/10/09/changes-happening-rapidly-regulators-not-managing-catch/
Which level of importance would you attribute on the necessary social change in terms of conception and understanding of the renewable energies?
Pretty high. And one of the main reasons why in reality you have lot of investments being blocked, at a planning level, asking for permission for example, is a political reason. It’s not economic (there are investors already). You have technologies at work. But at the same time you have, at the political level, regulators who are worried that the general public will not want any more renewables.
Bringing the public up to speed is essential, but you cannot do it with fake, with half-truths, which is what we are doing so far. So far we were saying that renewables are great. We keep on promoting them, keep growing them. Nobody tells peoples that the plan is to work in 30 years from now only with renewables. Nobody tells people that no other solutions exist. I think that is the main issue: letting people know that they’re going to have hundreds of wind turbines that they will be able to see from their balcony. There’s not escape from that, because that’s the only way we have at the moment. You don’t like them? Tough luck! It’s the only way! If you don’t like them there are many more polluting systems that are more dangerous. I don’t think politician are taking that brave stance of telling people the truth. I don’t think they ever will.
Even at the research level I’ve seen a lot of conservatism. Politicians usually are the least ambitious people, they just want to see an interaction with the public, they don’t want to push a very ambitious agenda. If the public doesn’t push them, they don’t really try. But even at the research level I’ve seen people very unambitious, very afraid of saying what is the kind of future we are trying to design – I remember about Italy six-seven years ago proposing specific research ideas for funding and people looking at me as we were talking about alien stuff. This is not possible. Talking about inter – industrial energy trade. You have industries needing electricity now, other industries next doors may be in energy five hours later. Can they pull resources together? Can they serve supply? Can they trade between the management and that kind of stuff? I though yes, why not. I’ve never thought this is a very alien thing. Instead, that is was a good idea to create a little bit of intra market in the industrial zone. I’m purposing it for research funding at that time and the answer was “No! It’s impossible! Forget it!” It has been done now. Six year later this is old stuff. Because suddenly it became a priority. So there is a lot of conservatism even from the people that you would have expected that they’re looking twenty years ahead. They are not. Not necessarily. The main reason is that the speed of change has been so rapid. People haven’t managed to catch up. You see what is going on around with prices and all these things. The industry has been very faster than any of us.
What about investors? How are they adapting?
See, you get two types of responses in the investment world. Usually there is a lot of money available for new energies investment. It’s not so difficult to find money to run your projects and all that kind of stuff. That has two faces, I would say. One side of it is the standard finance that you have available in every portfolio, every pension fund, and every hedge fund. Everybody that runs anything with stocks would be probably putting some cash down for new energy. Of course, keep in mind that typically the annual expenditure on renewable energy keeps decreasing every year; it comes down, slightly down. That is just an interaction with the fact that prices have been reduced every year. The actual new energies installations that we have every year are growing. But their cost (hence their investment cost) is coming down. Supply is growing and the money we spend for it keeps falling down. It’s a very interesting interaction.
We are talking in global terms, right?
Yes, all these are global data. For a local market, if you want to have more investors coming in, the main game is: create reliable projects and have a business friendly environment at a national level. Different countries do it in different ways. Sometimes they fail it completely. I would say business friendly countries are business friendly countries in general, not just for renewables, but for everything. For example, Greece is not a particularly business friendly country. It does all sorts of mistakes in all sectors in an equal measure. It messes up the energy sector, the manufacture sector, even the tourism sector (which is supposed to be the main breadwinner in the country). It is a skill! When you’re a country hostile to investment your country is hostile to every investment. You don’t discriminate. You can be equally bad at everything.