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Deal, No Deal

Osama Rizvi



It has been a topsy-turvy story for the most traded and (politically and economically) significant commodity in the world. Welcome to the world of Crude Oil. Back in 2014 when the war between Sheikhs and Shale begun, Saudi Arabia deliberately balked to play the role of, what has been called, Swing Producer of the world. By refusing to turn off the taps Saudis envisaged a future that will, acting out of the principle of survival of the fittest, drive out high-cost producers (most importantly US Shale).

But the strategy went awry. To their, and everyone surprise, even opposite. After a year in 2015 it was Kingdom burning through their cash reserves at a precarious rate. Subsidies were cut, holidays curtailed, salaries slashed. Government largesse, of which the Saudi masses are acquainted with, were shrunk at an uncomfortable rate. There was an imminent chance of a social unrest, if things had continue to be so. Fortunately, they didn’t. After much ado, OPEC was able to strike a last minute deal with Non-OPEC producers. Oil prices, after touching a nadir of $26, climbed up, gradually smashing through the $50 psychological mark. Articles and opinions were replete with positivity and that the act of rebalancing has begun. But across the pacific matters were quite different.

US Shale boom, Fracking 2.0. It has been called many names. The technological innovations in drilling and fracking coupled with certain softwares rendered the US shale industry a chance to stand in the face of low oil prices. The world saw how costs in US plunged almost 30-40%. In some areas such as Permian Basin it is even low. Instead of ousting the Shale producers, the days after the Vienna oil accord (signed 30th November 2016) saw an utterly different phenomena: rise in Shale production. Let us have a look at fundamentals. Right now the inventories stand at 527.8 million barrels down from the historic high of 535 million-not at all a bullish level, indeed. The rig count is also high: 697, highest since August 2015. The US shale production increased by 17,000 barrels per day this month. Total production has risen from 8 million barrels per day to 9.2 million barrels. Expected to touch 9.7mbpd by 2018. Bearishness spread all over! We are back at square one: oil prices are back to the pre-deal level and there has been a deluge of selling in the markets. Bloomberg reported today (5th May, 2017) “The number of contracts traded in a minute — usually in the hundreds early in the trading day — surged above 7,000 on WTI at 4:28am London time”.

Now coming back to Middle-East. The KSA, after the prices stabilized has become stable as well. Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is trying to ease things up. In a gerontocracy which doesn’t likes the idea of a young man getting hold of the bridles of the country, it is no doubt an achievement for the young scion that he has been able to kick-start projects that will diversify the Saudi economy disconnecting, to a great extent, its dependence on oil. About 90% of Saudi revenue comes from Oil exports. But now The Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Plan, attempts to wean itself from oil, calls for a bright future, provided both the plans are implemented in letter and spirit. But why are we talking about these projects and plans? Because they lead us to what is being dubbed as the creation of the largest sovereign fund in the world. Behold, Aramco. According to some estimates it is the largest company on earth big enough to swallow Alphabet Inc., Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft and still leaving some room for Apple Inc! Albeit its history has been shrouded in controversy due to the absence of any proper documentation and transparency now it is going public. There will be an IPO, late 2018, in which 5% shares of Saudi Aramco will be floated which is supposed to create a $1trillion sovereign fund. Once again, why Aramco? That is because it takes us to the deal. To the question that whether, on 25th May when the OPEC and NOPEC oil producers meet, the deal that was originally decided to be implemented for first six months of the year, will be extended or not? It takes us to the nuances that why KSA in the first place not only convinced OPEC and NOPEC producers to reach an entente but also went an extra mile cutting production more than what it had initially promised. It was because KSA needs oil prices more than $50 not only for the impending IPO but also for maintaining their economic health. It has reduced its tax from 85% to 50% to make Aramco more lucrative. Moreover, other Middle Eastern producers also need a stable oil as their revenue mostly depends upon oil, no surprise! Libya and Nigeria were exempted from the deal but they are in doldrums partially because of security issues and partially, economically. See what is happening in Venezuela. In a single phrase it is ripping apart, all because of low oil prices. With a war engulfed Syria a fuming refugee crisis, Middle East cannot afford another tumult as the consequence of low oil prices. Hence, my guesstimate is that there will be an extension, may be it is not for whole 6 months. Although, Saudi Oil Minister admonished the ‘free-riders’ at CERAweek and recently echoed that it is too early to decide, I think the Kingdom has to succumb to ground realities. This will give a support to oil prices for the remaining year.

I will conclude with a catch-22 situation: Suppose there is an extension and that the oil prices rise. What this augurs for the Shale producers (Read USA)? Euphoria! With cries of hurray their derricks are going to ooze out more black gold as higher prices makes it feasible to do so. Subsequently the rising prices will start to feel downward pressure and either come down or, in the best case, become stagnant.

A question to the readers: What is then the fun in extending the deal? Bitter, yet a reality.

Independent Economic Analyst, Writer and Editor. Contributes columns to different newspapers. He is a columnist for, where he analyzes Crude Oil and markets. Also a sub-editor of an online business magazine and a Guest Editor in Modern Diplomacy. His interests range from Economic history to Classical literature.


Sustainable energy at affordable prices precondition for prospering economies in OSCE region and beyond

MD Staff



Lukáš Parízek, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, speaking at the opening meeting of the Mediterranean Contact Group, Vienna, 19 March 2018. (OSCE/Salko Agovic)

Energy security, the protection of critical energy infrastructure, the development and integration of renewable energy and the best use of digitalization for energy security were the focus of the OSCE Mediterranean Contact Group meeting held today in Vienna.

Today’s discussion was the first conducted under the 2018 Slovak Chairmanship of the Mediterranean Contact Group. Participants highlighted that sustainable and reliable energy at affordable prices is the precondition for prospering economies and peace and security throughout the OSCE region and its Mediterranean partner countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia).

„Secure, affordable and available energy is vital for national and regional economies across the OSCE region and beyond – a major driver for today’s policymaking and an important part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” said the Slovak State Secretary of the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry and Special Representative for 2019 OSCE Chairmanship, Lukáš Parízek.

“Governments need to provide their citizens with affordable energy, at the same time meeting the growing energy demand by the industries, while making them more energy efficient and sustainable,” said Parízek. “Investing in new and more resilient energy infrastructure is crucial. Improved energy connectivity and co-operation in securing the energy supply, transit and demand chains can lead to a better future.”

Participants noted that there is hardly any domain other than energy in which the indivisibility of Euro-Mediterranean security is more consequential for the stability of states and the well-being of the people.

Representative of Italy’s OSCE Chairmanship and Chairperson of the Permanent Council Alessandro Azzoni said that Italy commends Slovakia’s decision to engage with Mediterranean Partners to foster co-operation in the energy domain. “Countries on both shores of the Mediterranean, and thus all OSCE participating States, stand to gain from increased energy security in the Euro-Mediterranean region.”

Azzoni recalled that while Italy was chairing the Mediterranean Contact Group in 2017, it launched the “OSCE GEMS Award for young green entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean region making a social impact”.  “The GEMS Award is a clear example of our efforts to promote co-operation between the OSCE and Mediterranean partners on issues including energy security,” he said.

Recent challenges such as blackouts caused by an increased amount of extreme weather conditions, terrorist and cyber-attacks on physical and digital infrastructure and a changing energy mix were also discussed.

“One of the central energy security challenges of today is how to effectively protect critical energy networks from existing and emerging security threats such as natural and man-made disasters and terrorist cyberattacks,” said the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, Vuk Žugić. “We stand ready to provide a platform to exchange best practices and build capacity, effectively addressing these issues.”

The Mediterranean Contact Group meeting brought together a number of experts to share perspectives on energy security from both sides of the Mediterranean, with a focus on the growing role of technology.

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Energy is at the heart of the sustainable development agenda to 2030

Dr Fatih Birol



Three years ago, all countries of the world adopted 17 ambitious policy goals to end poverty, protect the planet, promote gender equality, or ensure prosperity, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, and vowed to achieve specific targets by 2030.

Energy is at the heart of many of these Sustainable Development Goals – from expanding access to electricity, to improving clean cooking fuels, from reducing wasteful energy subsidies to curbing deadly air pollution that each year prematurely kills millions around the world. One of these goals – commonly known as SDG 7 – aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by the end of the next decade.

All these topics are fundamental to the work of the International Energy Agency. As the world’s leading energy authority, the IEA has unmatched analytical capabilities based on its unique data collection, technological network, research, and policy recommendations, which we put in the service of understanding the energy system. As I have often said – in the world of energy, data always wins.

The adoption of energy specific sustainable development goals was a milestone in moving the world towards a more sustainable and equitable system. The IEA continues to support this critical goal with unbiased data and projections. This has long been a personal and professional priority for me. Fifteen years ago, we recognized this basic fact when we first compiled data for electricity access and mapped out a scenario for delivering universal electricity access by 2030 in the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s benchmark publication.

As a result, the IEA has been tracking country-by-country progress on energy access (SDG 7.1) on an annual basis since 2002. As the world’s most authoritative source of energy statistics, the IEA is also the lead custodian agency for reporting progress towards substantially increasing the share of renewables in the global energy mix (SDG 7.2) and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency (SDG 7.3).

The United Nations will have the first in-depth review of SDG 7 goals at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development organized in New York, in July this year. This will be a good time to assess where we stand with our global energy goals, where existing national policies are taking us, and how to steer the global energy system towards a more sustainable path. To assist this critical process, the IEA has decided to create a new online resource to centralize all of our data and scenario projections in support of the 2030 Agenda.

It is clear that the energy sector must be at the heart of efforts to lead the world on a more sustainable pathway. But our data and analysis show that the current and planned policies fall well short of achieving our critical energy-related sustainable development objectives.

There has been tremendous progress in delivering universal electricity access (SDG 7.1.1) in Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with the number of people without access declining to 1.1 billion in 2016, from 1.7 billion in 2000. But on the basis of current progress, more than 670 million people are still projected to be without electricity access in 2030. Much work remains to be done in this field.

The picture is even dimmer when it comes to access to clean and modern cooking facilities (SDG 7.1.2). About 2.8 billion people rely on polluting biomass, coal and kerosene to cook their daily meals, a number which has not changed since 2000. Without greater ambition, 2.3 billion will still remain without clean cooking access in 2030, with grave health, environmental and social consequences.

The share of modern renewables in global final energy consumption (SDG 7.2) has been growing steadily in the past decades, reaching nearly 10% in 2015. However, to achieve a truly sustainable energy system, this share needs to more than double to 21% by 2030. But while wind and solar deployment has accelerated, thanks to falling costs and policy support in many parts of the world, this goal is still out of reach under current policies.

Finally, 2015 was an impressive year for energy efficiency (SDG 7.3), with global energy intensity falling by 2.8%, the fastest annual improvement since 1990. However, the average improvement between 2000 and 2015 of 2.2% still falls short of the 2.6% target needed to achieve the SDG target, and the 3.4% annual improvement needed to meet more ambitious long-term climate objectives.

Tracking progress towards these goals is only one aspect of our sustainable development work. Through our new Sustainable Development Scenario, introduced in 2017, we also seek to map an integrated path for achieving critical global goals in the next three decades: delivering universal energy access by 2030, an early peak in carbon emissions (SDG 13), and reducing deadly air pollution (SDG 3). One of the main finding of this new scenario is that these three goals are not incompatible. Indeed, our analysis shows they can successfully be met together.

But there is an urgent need for action on all fronts, especially on renewables and energy efficiency, which are key for delivering on all three goals – energy access, climate mitigation and lower air pollution. The IEA is committed to keep leading this agenda, and stepping up efforts to support the clean energy transition. We will do so with our unparalleled data, unbiased analysis, and our determined policy support to help move the world towards delivering the 2030 Agenda.

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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Energy Efficiency – and Learning from One’s Peers

MD Staff



China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Vietnam are critical for global climate action. Why? Among other reasons, because three-fourths of all new coal-fired power plants to begin operations before 2020 globally will be in these six Asian countries. Fostering more energy efficiency will be imperative in the countries’ efforts to adopt a low carbon energy path.

One initiative that supports efforts to scale up energy efficiency and clean energy – and lower greenhouse gas emissions – in these six countries is the Energy Transition in Asia program managed by the Energy and Extractives Global Practice.

Comprising of knowledge exchange and capacity building on key issues, the program recently held a workshop in Singapore to share lessons learned on energy efficiency, following last year’s learning forum on solar auctions, also held in the city-state. Participants agree that peer-to-peer learning works. After sharing best practice efforts in China, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and host country Singapore, team spirit and friendships strengthened, along with confidence, productivity and learning outcomes.

By the end of the three-day workshop, participants from governments not only requested follow-up assistance but also to learn more from their newfound friends about conserving more energy. “We were able to advance country engagement with the clients on energy efficiency,” explained Xiaodong Wang, team leader for the Energy Transition in Asia initiative. “Conducive policies that combine mandatory regulations with financial incentives are essential drivers to create market demand for catalyzing investments in energy efficiency.”

Results are already encouraging. China is a leading example. From 1990 to 2010, more than half of global energy savings took place in China, thanks to the government’s ambitious targets, stringent regulatory policies, generous financial incentives, and effective institutions – all of which reiterate strong commitment to energy efficiency. Reducing energy intensity was made a mandatory target, allocated to each province and 17,000 energy intensive enterprises. Efficiency standards for appliances, buildings, and vehicles were upgraded and complemented with billions of dollars of financial incentives in output-based subsidies, rebates for energy efficient consumer products, and compensation for the phase-out of inefficient stocks. All these efforts were monitored across the country.

India also led by example. Energy savings targets – at least for energy intensive industries – were made mandatory with the Perform, Achieve, and Trade scheme (PAT), which also allows the trade of Energy Savings Certificates to achieve targets in a least-cost way. Non-compliance at the end of the three-year cycle incurs a financial penalty. The results of the first phase surpassed targets. The second phase began in April 2017.

Workshop participants from India reminded, however, that these are early years. Following a visit to the district cooling system under Marina Bay Sands – the world’s largest underground facility and its most efficient – S.P. Garnaik, Chief General Manager of India’s Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. (EESL), a joint venture under the Ministry of Power, envisioned replicating such a system in India. But while a policy framework is being prepared to support the use of district cooling systems in rapidly urbanizing India, Garnaik admits that substantial results may take time, as “these are very new concepts.”

In addition to the mandatory output-based target approach in China and India, participants also noted Singapore’s green mark program, which combines mandatory building codes with financial incentives from the government for auditing and investment costs, as a model to emulate.

Indeed, the knowledge gap between participating countries is large. Yet even countries in the ‘nascent’ phase are eager to make progress.

Energy intensity in Asia is highest in Vietnam, with energy consumption by industry accounting for almost half of the country’s total energy use. Current efforts towards energy efficiency are encouraging. Labeling schemes have been established and energy management systems now require energy managers and auditors in large energy users. Indonesia is implementing a similar  system.

Learning from one’s peers can be galvanizing. As Trinh Quoc Vu of Vietnam’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Development Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade explains, Vietnam is eager to learn from China’s and India’s shift to a mandatory target approach. Indonesia’s delegates were inspired by their peers’ experience in expanding pilot programs. The Bank is providing advisory services to both Indonesia and Vietnam in their efforts to scale up energy efficiency.

The workshop also highlighted the critical role of strong government support in developing the ESCO business. ESCOS are energy service companies which design and implement energy savings projects.  Energized by his peers, Trinh is now intent on exploring mechanisms for promoting and incentivizing the ESCO business in Vietnam.

The World Bank Group supports many energy efficiency financing mechanisms worldwide, including through credit lines, risk sharing facilities, dedicated funds, program-for-results (PforR), and development policy loans. Critical to success is a strong pipeline for deal flows, as well as technical assistance.

In India, the Partial Risk Sharing Facility for Energy Efficiency initiative, financed by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) resources,  is supporting private sector ESCO-implemented energy efficiency projects through partial credit guarantees. The proposed new US$300 million India Energy Efficiency Scale Up Operation with EESL is expected to leverage over $1.5 billion of demand side energy efficiency investments across residential and public sectors. Similarly, the China Energy Efficiency Financing Project has leveraged the original World Bank financing eight times over, with a total investment of US$2.6 billion. The project has led to an annual reduction of 11 million tons of CO2 emissions.

Such figures may seem ambitious, but workshop participants were unfazed. Many are confident they will accomplish similar achievements. When learning from one’s peers, who all face challenges in their respective development journey, anything can seem possible.

World Bank

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