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Recalibrating Collaboration for the Energy Trilemma

History’s greatest accomplishments are rarely the result of any single individual’s work. Yes, there may have been a prominent figure in the spotlight – Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Henry Ford and so on – but, more often than not, there’s a wider team collaborating to help turn that person’s vision into reality.

Aided by technology, collaboration is everywhere today. We need only look at the response to COVID-19 to see how the world’s best experts worked around the clock to learn about the virus and crucially, how to stop it from spreading. In a similar vein, creating solutions to keep in contact with remote workforces and colleagues dotted around the world became a commonplace business phenomenon.

It would be an understatement to say the past few years have been anything but plain sailing, not least for the energy sector. Through our international work with companies and operators, we at Vysus Group are experiencing first-hand the challenges the energy trilemma is posing, and it is our responsibility as a sector to collaborate widely in order to navigate the uncertainty and changes which lie ahead.

The first question, therefore, is: Should we be reconsidering what it means to “collaborate” if we are to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and at COP26, especially given current world events? And is the value of collaboration being underestimated?

The Environment, Society and the Energy Trilemma

The “energy trilemma” acknowledges the extraordinarily fine and conflicting balance between security, affordability and sustainability needs, and therefore how this impacts the consumption of energy in our daily lives, both corporately and as individuals. Few would argue that this fine balance has been held under even greater tension since COP26 at the end of 2021.

Though their phase-out must remain a priority, hydrocarbons for the time being hold a vital place in the energy ecosystem. Because of volatility of supplies, exacerbated but not solely caused by the Ukraine situation, oil and gas production will underpin the transition advances and infrastructure modifications that eventually take us toward net zero.

Platforms such as the UN Global Compact provide a valuable framework upon which collaborative working can thrive. According to its 2021 annual survey, 67 percent of registered participants stated that acquiring knowledge to advance sustainability strategy fell within their top five reasons for their involvement. The opportunity to network with other organizations was cited as being key for 37 percent of respondents.

These statistics suggest that there is an almost instinctive desire for business owners to unite behind shared unifying goals. Isn’t that what should lie at the heart of all collaboration?

Of those that do collaborate, around half do so with another company. Twenty-four percent also report networking with non-business stakeholders, highlighting the importance of collaboration extending to those outside an organization’s narrow contact pool. Quite clearly, the environmental health of the planet could hardly be more important to everyone’s future, so why wouldn’t we collaborate, even among competing commercial and geopolitical interests?

Indeed, the sharing of knowledge across international borders will continue to be essential in bringing separate energy resources into respective energy matrixes. At Vysus Group, it is not at all uncommon for our teams on opposite sides of the equator to join forces without ever having to get on a plane, such has been the advance of collaborative technologies. Tools such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are commonplace, spurred on of course by the pandemic, offering hitherto unimaginable degrees of workspace chat, videoconferencing, file storage and application integration. They now operate seamlessly in a networked world where remote monitoring and inspections of energy assets, including scenario-modeling, as in the case of our Promaps solution. Of course, these are just a sample of what can assist us going forward in our quest to collaborate for a more sustainable world.

So, where are we at this precise moment on our urgent journey toward a secure, sustainable energy future? The U.K. has one of the most ambitious plans for renewable energy in the world, with some 86GW potentially coming from offshore wind alone, far ahead of China and the U.S. pipelines of 78GW and 48GW respectively. And that is before the likes of solar and nuclear come into consideration. Storage will be crucial here, as will how this extraordinary power can traverse global boundaries.

It will be a significant logistical and technological challenge, one that will require the resources of multiple groups, countries, and indeed, the public, for the U.K.’s renewable goals to become more than a pipedream. Engineers, innovators and companies all need to be in sync.

If we look again at the Global Compact annual survey, it is clear to see that collaborative working is key. Around a quarter of participants cite a lack of both time and resources as holding them back in their contribution to progressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), certainly in terms of where they would otherwise like to be.

Despite all this, it is quite clear that there’s a genuine desire from participants to play their part. Nearly half of the circa 1,300 respondents reveal that their company’s board of directors discuss and act on corporate responsibility issues as part of their formal environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda – something which may not have been the case in previous years – and even more importantly, hold themselves accountable. Encouragingly, 54 percent of those surveyed appoint “subcommittee” members to ensure actions are recorded and adopted, and this is filtering from the very top level through to external suppliers, in the case of diversity and inclusion training and climate change advocacy.

But let’s be realistic for a moment. Sustainability needs to be 100 percent collaboration. Sixty-two percent of Global Compact members are also engaged with one of the many local networks across the world, yet that still leaves around a quarter (24 percent) that either are not at all or are unsure whether their organization does in the first place.

Whatever the reason, collaboration is as much about learning what can be done to improve, as it is the physical implementation.

Though the environment is a primary concern for most, when it comes to being “sustainable,” there are other areas that need to be under the spotlight. The 17 SDGs upon which the Global Compact is formed provide the ideal platform for cross-goal collaboration, taking skills and knowledge prevalent in one area and transitioning them to other, interconnected circles. This is by no means an instantaneous process; for it to truly work, collaboration needs to go further than simply promoting the rationale and benefits, and focus as well on the bigger picture, asking what can be learned and passed on.

A classic example is the oil and gas sector’s role in advancing the cause of and case for the energy transition. Carbon capture data is routinely gathered as part of an oil rig’s active lifecycle; therefore, it can be utilized to assess overall efficiency and be the framework for evaluating Scopes One, Two and Three emissions, all from one pool of data. Collaboration in the form of a multi-disciplinary approach (something which nearly 40 percent of Global Compact signatories aspire toward in their risk management practices) shares the burden of knowledge and, by extension, the level of responsibility through a traceable, transparent operation that holds all parties accountable.

This approach, one we ourselves have embraced at Vysus Group through our AA1000AS AccountAbility Sustainability Assurance license accreditation, brings technical competencies and knowledge together with specialist environmental expertise, covering both sides of the coin simultaneously.

Time and again, the same statement keeps appearing in media headlines and in conversations with individual stakeholders: We are living in disruptive times. It’s a point that needs no further explanation. And yet, what we are not hearing enough about is how disparate groups can join more of the dots to make transition possible. That includes internal teams and departments within organizations, which can then join others at the forefront of idea generation and promotion of processes that position their organization as an exemplar in advancing the energy transition at the pace it needs to.   

So, let’s return to the beginning, when we asked ourselves if “collaboration” needs to be redefined for the energy transition. Does the dictionary definition still ring true, and does it cover enough ground for these highly disruptive times? Or is collaboration also about rallying others’ contributions and confronting head-on such existential world changing issues?

Headline photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Author Profile
Robert Nyiredy
VP - Risk Management Consulting with Vysus Group

Robert Nyiredy is VP of Risk Management Consulting with Vysus Group. He brings both deep and wide technical experience and management experience to his current roles as a team manager, as a project manager, sales management and in leading the global Risk Management Consulting business. He has experience across several market areas including oil and gas, energy and renewables. His key expertise, however, is within the oil and gas industry and its complex global business environment seeking sustainable growth opportunities while safely controlling risks.

Nyiredy graduated as an aeronautical engineer from RWTH Aachen in 1996 and has worked in many industry segments using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). He has extensive knowledge related to environmental flow studies pertaining to the oil and gas industry, such as dispersion modeling of exhaust chronic exposure to toxic compounds, helideck studies for the Norwegian and British sectors, and consequence analysis such as fire and explosion modeling.

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