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Setting the Course for a New Era in Energy

Setting the Course for a New Era in Energy

MR ZIMMER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the
Foreign Press Center. My name is Mark Zimmer. I’m one of the media relations officers
here. I’m very pleased to have you with us. We have two briefers today. The first
is Jonathan Elkind, who is the [*] Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the
Department of Energy. Our second briefer is Ambassador Mary Warlick. She is the Principal
Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Energy Resources Bureau and also the head
of the U.S. delegation to the IEA ministerial. We’re very pleased to have them both with
us. We appreciate your coming. They will each make an opening statement and then we’ll
open it up for questions. If any colleagues in New York have a question, we’ll call
on them as is appropriate. Thank you. Sir. MR ELKIND: So good afternoon. I’m very pleased
to be with you today to talk a little bit about the recent IEA ministerial meeting. As some of you know, the International Energy Agency conducts a meeting at the ministerial level every second year, and so the timing of the meeting that took place on the 17th and 18th of November was well established by tradition, but it actually came at a very important time in several different regards. First, this is the first ministerial meeting that takes place under the leadership of a new team at the International Energy Agency. Dr. Fatih Birol is the new executive director and his deputy, Paul Simons, have brought a new sense of opportunity and focus to the agenda of the IEA. I’ll talk a little bit about that in a moment. It was also a very important time in that the ministerial took place two weeks in advance of the start of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COP21 meeting that
is now underway in Paris. And thirdly, a significance that nobody would
have wished for, the ministerial took place a matter of days following the tragic attacks
that took place in Paris on the 13th of November. It was a time when the U.S. Energy Secretary
Dr. Moniz and counterparts from across the world, both IEA members and non-members alike,
felt it exceptionally important to be in Paris to continue with constructive business, forward-looking
business, to figure out the energy agenda going forward. If I were to highlight just a couple of the
outcomes before passing the baton to my colleague, I would note that in particular this was a
time of focus on the – on a new agenda for an International Energy Agency that is focusing
on updating and modernizing its engagement both with member-countries and with non-members
alike. Dr. Birol laid out an agenda that focuses on first opening the doors of the IEA even
wider to countries that have not been members in the past. In that context, we were very
pleased that Mexico formally indicated its interest to begin the accession process. In
addition, three countries – China, Indonesia, and Thailand – entered into a relationship
called association with IEA which will be a closer continuous relationship building
on very strong existing ties there. A second element of Dr. Birol’s agenda is
to build from the traditional strength in energy security, which has been the stock
and trade of IEA since 1974, to not only look at oil security, which has been a traditional
focus, but also at the very different challenges in the natural gas space. And a third area of focus under Dr. Birol’s
leadership will be in the clean energy and energy efficiency arena where there is so
much dynamism. And it’s significant there that the ministers participating in the meeting
two weeks ago concluded a statement that focuses on what the energy sector can do to contribute
to solutions in the climate space. And there was a joint statement that was forwarded to
the Conference of the Parties that is now under way. So those are the highlights from my perspective
and I’d like to pass the baton, as I said, to my colleague Mary Warlick. AMBASSADOR WARLICK: Great. Well, thank you
very much, Jon, and let me just say to add very briefly to what Jon has already well
described, we believe the timing of this meeting at the start of the new leadership at the
International Energy Agency with a new executive director Fatih Birol, someone with longstanding
experience at the IEA, is a very important opportunity for ministers from all the member-countries
to hear directly from him about his priorities, precisely the areas that Jon has outlined,
and also I think for ministers to take a little bit of time to think about where the International
Energy Agency goes from here some 40 years after it was founded. And in that respect,
as Jon has said, the expansion of the – and the deepening, really – of the IEA’s engagement
with non-member countries was something that had been highlighted by ministers two years
ago. And so this proved to be a really important opportunity at this particular ministerial
chaired by Energy Secretary Moniz for the IEA to show real progress precisely in that
area. So we were, for the U.S., very pleased, as
were all the other members, to be able to be able to activate this association process
with the three countries Jon has mentioned: with China and Indonesia and Thailand. And
we’re very much looking forward to additional progress being made by other countries such
as Brazil and South Africa and India as well in continuing to deepen their engagement with
the agency as well. So those – that was definitely an important
– a very big outcome as well as was mentioned the formal submission of Mexico’s application
to begin the process of joining the IEA. So, very good on all of those fronts. There were – and I don’t know if the numbers
were mentioned – ministers or very senior representatives from some 29 countries as
well as a wide number of accession and partner countries – Brazil, Chile, China, India, Indonesia,
Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and Thailand – who were all present. And there was also
a significant presence of the Energy Business Council, which is a very close part of the
IEA process as well with representatives from some 30 countries, if I’m not mistaken. I will also add that as the IEA and the agency
looks forward to working hard on some of the mandates that came out of the ministerial,
one important area that we will want to see further progress on is taking a very close
look at the budgetary long-term financial health issues associated with the agency.
It’s a particular issue of real interest to us in the United States. We believe the
IEA is doing a great deal of really important work on so many different fronts, and the
close timing of the ministerial with what is now underway in terms of the COP21 in Paris
was so important, as well. But as the IEA looks to expand the scope of its work doing
so in a way that it has the necessary resources and that we’re meeting those in a responsible
manner will also continue to be important. So again, I think our view was it was a very
positive and successful ministerial. There’s a lot of work that lies ahead, but we were,
as I mentioned, especially pleased that this was an opportunity where we were able to really
welcome so many new countries into the fold, into the relationship with the IEA. MR ZIMMER: Okay. With that, we’ll open it
for questions. As always, please identify yourself and your outlet. If any colleagues
in New York come to the stand, we’ll recognize them. Please. Sorry, Doris. QUESTION: Xiaochun Lin from Xinhua News Agency.
My question is: Could you explain why the IEA decided to accept China as association
country? And my second question is: Could you say a little bit about China’s role
in the community field? MR ELKIND: So China is a very important partner
both in regard to the association structure that has been set in motion and also in collaborations
around clean energy. In regard to association, the significance of China obviously goes to
the scale of the Chinese energy economy, which is to say that engagement with China provides
an opportunity for China to gain the benefit of closer, more intimate engagement with experts
that work for the IEA Secretariat and also that participate in the many different committees
and working parties that exists under the umbrella of the IEA. China has a great significance
in what is going on in energy markets. It is the largest energy consumer, the largest
oil importer, the largest coal consumer. So, it is, in every respect, in all parts of the
energy sector, a very dynamic player and one with which the IEA community, including the
United States, wants to foster closer relations. In regard to clean energy in particular, China
has made clear through the statements by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, including in
a bilateral format with President Obama at the time of the APEC ministerial last year
and then again in the state visit in September, China has made clear that it is committed
to a significant share of is total energy production coming from clean energy resources,
specifically 20 percent by the year, I believe, 2030. This will be a huge undertaking for
China, and in that regard China both has things to offer to its partners in the global community
as well as things to benefit from that engagement. In terms of offering, China has – is an
important partner in clean energy research. And a little bit later, I’ll make some remarks
about a new engagement called Mission Innovation that is tapping that engagement with China.
But, also, China is looking for technology and policies and knowhow that have been tried
and tested in other countries and that can be applied in China to the benefit of the
Chinese people. AMBASSADOR WARLICK: And I would just add two
other quick points. One is that when the IEA was founded 40 years ago, the member-countries
at that time represented a far bigger proportion of energy consumption globally than is the
case today. And I think the inclusion of China and China’s interest in deepening its partnership
with the agency, as Jon said, is a real win-win for both sides. And with the inclusion of
additional countries into the agency’s activities, I think it’s a real recognition of the changing
scene of global energy consumption and trends today and all a part of taking a hard look
at what needs to be done to modernize the IEA to reflect current realities. I will also add that we’re all very well
aware too of China’s upcoming presidency of the G20 next year, which provides a real
opportunity for us on – in terms of the energy agenda, to engage on issues that are
of real importance to China and the region and more globally as well, and an opportunity
for the IEA to work closely with China as it pursues its G20 agenda. MR ZIMMER: Let’s go to the back, please. QUESTION: Irina Gelevska, Macedonian TV. Can
you tell us, what do you expect as outcome from the conference in Paris? MR ELKIND: The short answer is today, I can’t
tell you specifically what the outcomes will be, but I can tell you what we hope for in
terms of that structure. First of all, as President Obama made clear in his remarks
yesterday, and as the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Energy, and other senior
U.S. officials have stressed repeatedly, we view the Conference of the Parties as a critical
opportunity for the global community to set in place a structure that both calls forth
the commitments from individual countries, that establishes a pathway forward that can
facilitate progressively increasing ambition over time – so a set of obligations that
countries will put forward in the form of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,
the INDCs, and then structures that will help to facilitate the successful implementation
of those INDCs by each country. Now here let me mention the Mission Innovation
initiative that I referred to a moment ago. Yesterday President Obama, President Hollande,
Prime Minister Modi from India, and representatives from 17 other countries, many of them at the
head of state or head of government level, announced an initiative under which the participating
countries have pledged to double in five years’ time their budgets, their resources available,
to support clean energy research and development. So it is a big, ambitious undertaking by the
governments. But there is more. The logic of this effort
is that we need not only to have more tools that are available that can help us to realize
the low-carbon, no-carbon energy sector that we need in the future, but also – not just
the existence of the technology, but also the deployment of those technologies is terribly
important. So in addition to the governmental element of this initiative, there is also
a private sector element – a grouping led by Mr. Bill Gates that is referred to as the
Breakthrough Energy Coalition. This is a grouping of, I believe, 27 different investors and
industrialists from 10 different countries on every continent around the globe. And they
have pledged patient, early-stage, commercial investments, the kinds of investments that
we need in order to actually have the clean-energy technologies of tomorrow ripen and mature.
We’re talking about investments that are high-risk but also high potential for very
consequential impact, favorable impact, going forward. So for those who are interested in more on
this, please see the website – And you can get
all the details about this new initiative. Now I mention that because – now to go back
to the initial question – because one of the things that is clear is that the sum of
the individual national pledges, these intended nationally determined contributions – the
sum of those INDCs will not yield a trajectory on which we are moving toward limiting climate
change to 2 degrees Celsius, as the scientific community has advised. We will – in addition
to what is on the table in Paris in these days, we will need new technologies, new ambition,
new opportunities to create solutions. And we think that there is a great deal of significance
for the energy sector. Globally, two-thirds of our greenhouse gas emissions come from
the energy sector. So, likewise, the solutions have to come from the energy sector, as well.
So, to wrap up, we view the climate talks that are underway now as having a great potential
to put us on the pathway to a good start now and to better and better solutions progressively
through the years ahead. AMBASSADOR WARLICK: If I could just add briefly
to that, too, I mean, this huge and really landmark announcement, Mission Innovation,
I think complements very well the work of the IEA. For many years there is something
like 6,000 scientists and experts from all around the world who have been working on
technology collaboration programs through the IEA. And this is one particular area that
the new executive director very much wants to focus on, and one outcome of the ministerial
was actually renaming the cooperation in this area – technology collaboration programs
– but also with a clear commitment to deepen and strengthen the work of all of these technology
experts to drive home more solutions, better solutions on clean energy and energy efficiency.
So Jon can speak more to this, but we certainly see a big prospective role for the IEA in
working with Mission Innovation. MR ZIMMER: We’ll go to the front, then the
middle. Thanks. QUESTION: I am Haik Gugarats with Argus Media.
Actually, I’d like to learn something more about the natural gas security and what the
U.S. position is on it given that U.S. will become net exporter of natural gas next year.
And a second related question is: With every IEA ministerial, U.S. domestic production
of crude and natural gas has increased. And I know some of your partners would, in different
organizations, bring up the subject of U.S. restrictions on export of these commodities.
I wonder if it ever has come up in the most recent ministerial, and what do you normally
reply? MR ELKIND: First, in relation to natural gas
security, I would say that the task and the challenges, the nature of the marketplace
for natural gas, is very different than it is for oil. And so the work that IEA agreed
to inaugurate through the decisions of the ministerial – that work will focus substantially
on information about the marketplace, best practices in terms of storage and other flexibility
mechanisms, and the like. It will not be a cookie-cutter of what IEA does in the oil
security space. You’re right that the United States is expected
at the beginning of next year to begin natural gas exports in the form of liquefied natural
gas from the lower 48 states. This is a big development. And overall, the United States
Department of Energy has approved for exports to non-free-trade-agreement countries in excess
of 100 billion cubic meters per year. So this potentially is a very considerable change
in the marketplace that is being signaled right now. In general, the marketplace for natural gas
has become more plentiful, more diversified, more competitive. And all of those features
we think are positive. In relation to crude oil, first of all, it’s
important to note that the United States has unrestricted export of refined petroleum products.
And we export in excess of a couple million barrels a day of gasoline, diesel, and other
refined products. When it comes to the crude oil market, we are still a major importer
– seven and a half million barrels a day of crude oil imports to the United States.
So if you look at the analysis that has been done by the Energy Information Administration,
for example, you’ll see that the idea of changing, removing the restrictions on crude
oil exports – an idea that is circulating, for example, in the Congress – is not deemed
to be something that would yield much impact in the marketplace. But nonetheless, the political
process will and should continue to debate whether that’s the right way forward for
the United States. MR ZIMMER: Okay. Any other questions? On this
side, please. QUESTION: Hi, Ambassador Warlick, hello. So
in view of these new climate change initiatives, what would be the recommendation to small
oil-producing states such as Azerbaijan, for example, which is where I’m from? What can
they do to sort of go with the flow of this new process that is taking place? And also,
how would you assess what they are already doing in terms of adapting to the new world
of climate change and the new initiatives? Thank you. MR ELKIND: Do you want to go first, or — AMBASSADOR WARLICK: Sure. Well, just a comment briefly, and then Jon
can add as well. I mean, we think it’s critically important that all countries find a way to
take significant steps forward to address climate change and to put forward strong and
ambitious INDCs. The President has already spoken to this some in Paris, as I’m sure
you would’ve seen, and with the idea being that as time progresses, countries would continue
to review their commitments with a view to setting even more ambitious targets for themselves. So there is obviously a very important role
for a country like Azerbaijan to be playing in terms of energy security, and that is an
area where we have been working closely with the government and other countries in the
region, in particular on the southern gas corridor, as I’m sure you would well know.
But certainly the energy security obligations and responsibilities of countries remain paramount,
and that’s an area of particular focus in the IEA. But at the same time, we would hope
that energy producers and consumers as alike will play a real constructive and important
role in addressing the climate change challenge as well. MR ELKIND: I don’t have much to add to that.
I will say that, exactly as Ambassador Warlick has underscored, that Azerbaijan is not only
an oil producer, it is also a natural gas producer. And if you look at the experience
of the United States over the last decade, natural gas has played an utterly central
role in driving down U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases from the energy sector. So there is
an important role to be played there. Second thought: The traditional fuels that
have been the source of energy security for many years now – we expect that they will
continue to have a role in the marketplace. Our President has talked about an energy policy
that is oriented around all of the above, and the idea here is that individual countries
– or even within the United States, individual regions within this country – will make
different choices about how best to deliver on their energy requirements. But we seek
to drive new technologies and to encourage their deployment across the marketplace so
that those fuels, even if they are traditional, are used in a lower and lower-emitting form. The classic example of this is carbon capture
utilization and sequestration technologies for the coal sector, because we expect that
coal will continue to be burned all around the world going forward. How to do that in
a way that is friendly to the environment – that’s the question that is on our minds. MR ZIMMER: Any final questions? Alright. Please,
one more. QUESTION: Are there any requirements for association
members that you imagine, any criteria based on which countries should or should not consider
membership? MR ELKIND: So, the countries that have entered
into this association structure have engaged in a long dialogue with the IEA. Ambassador
Warlick referred to the decision two years ago at the ministerial meeting to focus on
developing the idea, developing the structure, engaging in dialogue with the potential partners
about what benefits they seek from a closer relationship with IEA, and what they are willing
to do – what undertakings they would accept from their own side. We have focused on a
number of different areas that are important features of the IEA’s offerings, if you
will. That goes to energy data and statistics; that goes to energy security concerns, including
a closer relationship in regard to oil security, which has been, as I said, a traditional area
of focus for IEA. It also goes to technology, to energy efficiency and others. So there
is a body of areas of collaboration that have been discussed between the partners and the
IEA, and those are the – an interest and a willingness to participate in connection
with those specific areas are the criteria that are used to determine participation in
the association structure. AMBASSADOR WARLICK: No, and I don’t have
much to add to that. Obviously, I think that there is a view that the association process
or relationship with the IEA should very much be a two-way street and that there’s much
to be gained, both on the part of IEA member-countries from learning more about and learning lessons
from non-member countries, but also in the other direction, too: the kind of expertise
that the IEA can help contribute and the collective aspect, too, of the engagement and looking
at some of the responses is also very important. I would add that we were very encouraged,
in addition to the countries we mentioned who decided to formally activate the association
process this time around – that is, China, Indonesia, and Thailand – that India, Brazil,
and South Africa also seem to be quite interested in moving that – to that sort of level of
relationship with the IEA as well. So we and certainly our colleagues in the IEA secretariat
will be continuing to work very closely with those interested countries to see how and
when we might be able to take it to the next step. MR ELKIND: Let me give one specific example
that may make it a little bit more vivid. One of the things that the United States has
always valued about the International Energy Agency is that it is an agency whose activities
are founded, grounded on energy data, energy statistics, and energy analysis. And so one
of the most important elements of IEA’s engagement with association partners is on
the area of energy data and statistics, both in terms of helping to provide the capacity
in the partner country to gather and present accurate, timely energy data, but then also
a willingness to do that on a continuing basis and to make that information as a public good
available more broadly. And so that’s been really kind of a critical foundation stone
that has been one of the areas of core focus for association. MR ZIMMER: Okay. Are there any further questions?
All right, that concludes our briefing, and we thank our briefers for their time. We thank
you for joining us. AMBASSADOR WARLICK: Thank you.

2 comments on “Setting the Course for a New Era in Energy

  1. ..why are you guys so focused on making your own security …if you trusted in God you would automatically have security…

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