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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Hungary

4th April 2011

2000 kilometres on a litre of petrol?

Sounds like a great deal in these days of expensive fuel! But this is the challenge to schools and colleges competing in the XXVIIth Shell Eco Marathon in May – to build vehicles able to achieve this goal and win the race. 5 Hungarian teams are participating this year. And on Friday one of the vehicles was on display in the British Embassy in Budapest.

Behind the fun lies a serious purpose – bringing the idea of low carbon solutions closer to the younger generation around the globe. Because if we are not careful with our investment decisions now, we risk locking in high-carbon technologies instead of decarbonising. And since we will need to decarbonise anyway at some point, it is much cheaper to do so now than wait until we no longer have the luxury of choice – because expensive decisions will be forced on us eventually.

The Eco Marathon vehicle was there because we were hosting the latest in a Shell energy dialogue series, “Low Carbon Energy Future for Europe in a Global Context”. Shell is the second biggest fuel company in Hungary and has been actively engaging key stakeholders in its energy dialogue for many years – evidence of an inclusive approach reflected in a wide variety of progressive programmes (selective waste collection, staff diversity pilots etc.). This year they are working with the Corvinus University Regional Energy Research Centre, another of our long-standing partners. And this discussion was especially timely because the European Commission has just published its Low Carbon Roadmap, a milestone in EU energy and climate policy calling for accelerated, early decarbonisation.

The dialogue looked at the main current dilemma – how to secure stable and affordable energy in the face of climate change and the need to reduce CO2 emissions. Do we know the right way forward? How important will the low carbon economy be for Europe and Hungary? What is the right, balanced energy mix for the future? And which policy and economic measures need to be adopted? The main conclusions were that:

  • Large-scale, short-term investment (doubling or tripling current levels in the next 5 years) into renewable industry is essential to establish the long term benefits of using resources and to reduce our carbon footprint – and sourcing financing is the largest challenge;
  • Long-term thinking is essential too – decision and developments in the next 5 years will determine the global energy scenario for the subsequent 30-40 years;
  • Supply will struggle to keep pace with demand – energy price rises are unavoidable and will have a serious social impact;
  • Dialogue with the regulators is essential – to create a calculable and stable economic environment.

During the discussion all the participants – from academia, business, politics and civil society – showed a surprising commonality of opinion on the main issues. Which is hopefully a very promising sign. We’ll see.