Conference: Global Energy Systems - June 26-28 2013

Our energy system is evolving due to depletion of cheap fossil fuels and the need for carbon emission constraints. Government and business are under pressure to tackle the energy challenges of rising energy costs, energy security, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We witness rapid changes across countries as this evolution takes place, steered both by markets (investment decisions) and government (policy decisions).

It is essential for energy professionals to stay well informed with the latest insights in this evolving world. For this reason, Euan Mearns of The Oil Drum, myself and several others, are organizing the first three-day Global Energy Systems conference, which will take place in Edinburgh, United Kingdom from June 26 - 28 2013. The conference is meant to deliver key updates on the most pressing energy issues and challenges facing our energy system, as well as providing a forum for exchange of substantially different viewpoints. It is supported by several universities and research institutes including University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, Oxford Research Group, Chatham House and others.

The scope is deliberately very broad, covering most primary energy sources, so that a global view of the current energy system can be presented. Session topics include “the limits to easily accessible fossil fuels”, “frontier fossil fuel technologies and basins”, “the viability of nuclear power”, “the costs and benefits of fossil versus renewable electricity”, and “the economics and policy of energy systems”. A few of our confirmed speakers include Michael Kumhof (IMF), Sir David King (Oxford University), Arthur Berman (The Oil Drum), Ian Emsley (World Nuclear Association), Lord Ron Oxburgh (House of Lords UK Parliament), Peter Jackson (IHS CERA), and Thomas Ahlbrandt (former USGS WPA, Ahlbrandt Consulting).

Read below the fold for an overview of the conference programme and confirmed speakers to date.

General information

1st Global Energy Systems Conference

Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Wednesday June 26 to Friday June 28, 2013

Registration will open Friday 14 December 2012

General interest, media and sponsorship enquiries
The conference is organized on a non-profit basis by a group of energy professionals concerned about the challenges that we face. Any expressions of interest, suggestions for content and analysis, and contributions of sponsorship, are most welcome. Your content, media, and sponsorship related communication can be directed to: alexr at

Conference Programme per 10 December 2012

Day 1 – Fossil Fuels: Can we turn Unconventional into Conventional?

Conference Opening
08:00 – 09:00 Registration | Coffee & tea
09:00 – 09:30 Welcome and Sponsor addresses Program Committee and Sponsors
09:30 – 10:25 Keynote Address on the Global Energy Challenges Lord Ron Oxburgh, House of Lords UK Parliament
10:25 – 10:50 Coffee & tea


The Limits to Easily Accessible Fossil Fuels
10:50 – 11:15 Fossil Fuel Production forecasts: analysis of resource and reserve assumptions and model mechanics Joint Paper convened by Dr. Roger Bentley
11:15 – 11:40 Perspectives on China's Coal Industry and Future Kevin Jianju Tu, Senior Associate Carnegie 
11:40 – 12:05 World Oil Upstream Development Outlook, Production, Technology, and Cost. Dr. Peter Jackson, Head of Research IHS CERA
12:05 – 12:30 Russia's Natural Gas Outlook: Yamal Peninsula & Arctic (Case Study)
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch Break


Frontier Fossil Fuel Technologies and Basins
13:30 – 13:55 The future of US shale/tight oil Dr. Kenneth Chew
13:55 – 14:20 Oil and gas recovery from continuous (unconventional) resources: Technology innovation options for improving the economic baseline Dr. Ruud Weijermars, Director TU/Delft Unconventional Gas Research Initiative
14:20 – 14:55 Enhanced Oil Recovery - The 300 billion barrel Question
14:55 – 15:10 Refreshment Break
15:10 – 15:35 The technological and economic limitations to unlock coal resources
15:35 – 16:00 Potential and limitation of liquefaction of coal and gas
16:00 – 16:30 Coffee & tea break
Debate: Energy Scarcity, Threat or Fiction?
16:30 – 17:30 Viewpoint A: "Upcoming technologies will unlock the unconventional resource base"
Dr. Thomas Ahlbrandt, Vice-President of Exploration at Falcon Oil & Gas
Dr. Roberto F. Aguilera, Research Fellow Curtin University, Australia.
Viewpoint B: "We can’t afford the energy, labour and capital cost to prolong the fossil fuel era"
Dr. Michael Kumhof, Deputy division chief, Modeling Unit IMF
Arthur Berman, Labyrinth Consulting Services


Day Summary
17:30 – 18:00 Closing Program Committee
18:00 – 21:00 Onsite buffet at site
18:00 – 19:30 Policy Workshop: The information, data, and policy gaps on the Limits to Easily Accessible Fossil Fuels and Potential to unlock Unconventionals Breakout group of speakers plus invited delegates

Day 2 – The Future of the Electricity System

Conference Opening
08:00 – 09:00 Registration | Coffee & tea
09:00 – 09:30 Welcome and Sponsor addresses Program Committee and Sponsors
09:30 – 10:25 Keynote Address Dr. Jeremy Leggett, non-Executive chairman Solarcentury, Chairman Solaraid
10:25 – 10:50 Coffee & tea Break


The viability of Nuclear Power
10:50 – 11:15 Nuclear after Fukushima, the Global Nuclear Outlook Dr. Ian Emsley, World Nuclear Association
11:15 – 11:40 The uranium fuel market, prospects and constraints
11:40 – 12:05 Nuclear & national security, accident probabilities and the need for 100% safe nuclear reactors
12:05 – 12:30 Nuclear waste and breeders, technological options for re-using nuclear waste
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break


The cost and benefits of Renewable versus Fossil Electricity
13:30 – 13:55 The Benefits and Costs of Renewable Energy deployment Dr. Ulrike Lehr, Institute of Economic Structures Research GWS
13:55 – 14:20 Electricity demand management, (regulations, options, growth, rebounds) Prof. Gareth Harrison, University of Edinburgh, Electrical Power Engineering Group
14:20 – 14:55 Constraints to scalability of renewable energy sources
14:55 – 15:10 Refreshment Break
15:10 – 15:35 The full costs of electricity and storage
15:35 – 16:00 Innovative electricity storage technologies on the horizon
16:00 – 16:30 Coffee & tea break
Debate: The future – friction between unconventional Fossil Fuels versus Renewables?
16:30 – 17:30 Viewpoint A: "There is no silver bullet to resolve supply-demand tensions"
Viewpoint B: "The abundant potential for re-industrialization into a green renewable economy"
Viewpoint C: "We can’t afford not to burn unconventional fossil fuels"
Speakers to be announced


Day Summary
17:30 – 18:00 Closing Program Committee
18:00 – 21:00 Onsite buffet at site
18:00 – 19:30 Policy Workshop: the information, data, and policy gaps on meeting the Energy Challenges towards the Future Electricity System Breakout group of speakers plus invited delegates

Day 3 – The Economics & Policy of Energy Systems

Conference Opening
08:30 – 09:00 Coffee & tea
09:00 – 09:15 Welcome and Sponsor addresses Program Committee and Sponsors
09:15 – 10:00 Keynote Address Professor Sir David King, Director Smith School Oxford University


Understanding the long term  balance between Supply, Demand, and the Price of Energy
10:00 – 10:25 Demand side: The energy intensity of the economy
10:25 – 10:50 The influence of price risks on policy design and investment Dr. William Blyth, Director Oxford Energy Associates
10:50 – 11:15 Coffee & tea
11:15 – 11:40 The capital cost requirements of energy transitions Dr. Michael Dale, Stanford University
11:40 – 12:00 Demand side: The economic impacts of oil prices
Panel Discussion on Key Knowledge, Data & Policy Gaps in the Energy sphere
12:00 - 12:45 Professor Michael Jefferson, University of Buckingham
Professor Zoe Shipton, University of Strathclyde
More panelists to be announced
12:45 – 13:00 Conference Summary, Final Sponsor Thanks


Energy Modelling workshop
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch with Introduction
14:00 – 14:30 Selected Individual Presentation rounds
14:30 – 16:00 Discussion
Speakers to be announced



At first glance I don't see any focus on reducing energy demand; demand destruction.

Addressing Peak Oil and Climate Change will above all require a great reduction in demand.

Have you considered inviting, for instance, Wolfgang Feist, from the Passivhaus Institut?

Don't mean to presume the direction of the conference, but the reduction of energy demand is often neglected, while there is no lack of discussion about the production of energy.


Hello Andrew,

Thank you for the useful comment/feedback, we received similar feedback from a number of others as well, and indeed it is one of the "weak" links in the program. I an others still need to think more deeply on how to address this in the conference program properly (one talk is not sufficient I think to take a leap forward in knowing how to better tackle such a key issue).

I will have a look at the Passivhaus Institute. If you have more suggestions they are always welcome.

Best, Rembrandt

I endorse Andrew's comment.
Germany is way ahead of UK in programs to upgrade building energy efficiency but Edinburgh has a Scottish Passiv Haus Centre. Lots going on. Possibility of a 'Conference visit'? Contact details are here
Again, locally at Scottish Universities and elsewhere in UK there are many feasibility studies for retrofit for existing housing and I am sure German or British speakers would be available to discuss the scope and effects of policies in this key area. BobE (TOD occasional commentator) is knowledgable about the whole scene. I can do contacts if you do not already have them.

Hi Rembrant.
The thing that jumps out at me is that there is nothing on transport alternatives.
If plug in hybrids or fuel cell cars take off in the next few years, demand for resources and their mix alters considerably.

OTOH, it is tough to cover everything, and the single topics on the list need conferences in themselves.

There's a fair amount going on local to the conference venue in Edinburgh on transport alternatives.

The first hybrid diesel electric ferries have recently been launched on the other side of the central belt of Scotland (70 miles away) at Port Glasgow.

And hybrid diesel and electric buses have recently been developed in Falkirk. In fact, if you travel around Edinburgh by public transport, you can try traveling on a hybrid bus.

You can have a look at the latter stages of the installation of a new tram system in the centre of the city, 15 minutes walk from the conference venue.

You can take an electric train to various locations in Scotland or to London and the (electric) Eurostar to Brussels or Paris and destinations across Europe and beyond. Here's a good guide to train travel in the UK, Europe and beyond.

The conference venue is just next door to the Scottish Parliament who are "peak oil aware". The installed renewable energy capacity in Scotland is now just over 1 kW per capita, supplying more than 36% of Scottish electricity demand in 2011 and growing fast. The target is 50% for 2015 and 100% by 2020.

I don't see a session on investment and financing of energy reforms. Lots of new developments here, and of crucial significance to evolving energy markets, developing economies, government response to sustainability and environmental challenges, scalability, and more.

And many of your costs-benefits for renewables are costs-benefits for energy systems as a whole: demand management, energy storage, advanced grid, etc. I hope you intend to cover them as such, and provide as broad a possible perspective to these important issues.

Looks like a lot of fun, and a very productive conference.

Hummm ... must have missed day 3 (and topics headings). Looks like a very well organized conference.