INVITATION TO THE SEMINAR
of the Economic Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic
organised in cooperation with the Czech Academy of Sciences
on the topic “Causes of the energy crisis and tools to solve it”.
The seminar will take place on Wednesday, 2 November 2022 at 9 AM in the building of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic (Sněmovní 1, Prague 1 - Malá Strana, meeting room J-205).
Opening remarks will be made, among others, by Jiří Plešek, Chair of the Committee for Energy Research of the CAS and Member of the Academy Council of the CAS.
The full programme can be found (in Czech) here.
The 16th Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) Conference | 9–10 November 2022, Prague
Co-organised under the auspices of the Czech Presidency by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade and the European Commission, the Conference will bring together high-level speakers, policymakers, industry, researchers, academia and the general public.
Energy security in the context of the war in Ukraine
The scientific priorities of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council were being put together even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 – after the war broke out, the topics took on a whole new dimension. A significant area of interest is therefore low-emission and safe energy solutions, reacting to one of the most pressing issues in Europe today. The war in Ukraine has led to a hike in energy prices and clearly exposes the vulnerability of Europe in terms of resource availability and dependence on Russian natural gas.
For this reason, there is mounting pressure to diversify the sources in the energy mix, an area that is also being addressed by researchers at the Czech Academy of Sciences, who are, for instance, significantly involved in the development of an energy source that utilises thermonuclear fusion. “Current research will not provide us with enough energy for this winter. But it should ensure that we will not find ourselves in a similar situation in the future,” explains Radomír Pánek, director of the Institute of Plasma Physics of the CAS. That’s because research into new sources of energy and nuclear energy is a long-term and investment-intensive endeavour. As Pánek adds, this energy source represents a major challenge for humanity, but also a great opportunity to obtain a commercially affordable, almost inexhaustible, low-emission and safe energy source within 30 years: “I sincerely hope that current events and the energy crisis will lead to greater support for these areas of research.”
The focus on energy security ties in with the Sustainable Energy research programme that is part of the CAS Strategy AV21. Research topics include renewable energy resources and distributed energy systems, energy storage, hydrogen technologies, circular economy for the energy industry, advanced technologies for nuclear fusion, current challenges for fission-based nuclear power generation, sustainable energy and society, and economic issues in energy sector transformation. The Institute of Thermomechanics of the CAS and the Institute of Plasma Physics of the CAS are coordinating the programme, with over ten additional CAS institutes and 11 external partners (universities, state agencies) involved.
What can we expect from current energy security research?
Jiří Plešek, Member of the Academy Council of the CAS, answers below.
The Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) will focus on three thematic areas during the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. What activities are you planning as part of the research area you are coordinating?
The importance of the energy sector and its necessary restructuring is evident. The CAS covers many scientific fields, as evidenced by the two completed and one ongoing programme of its Strategy AV21. From the many available topics, we have put together several of the most important ones under the encompassing term decarbonisation of the energy system. We want to focus primarily on the safety of nuclear power plant operation, thermonuclear fusion, hydrogen technologies, and CCS/U processes – i.e., carbon capture storage/utilisation – including transport of CO2. In general, these issues are in line with the Czech State Energy Policy.
As co-organisers, we are preparing three international conferences in the context of the Czech EU Presidency: the SET-Plan (with the Ministry of Industry and Trade), the Decarbonisation of Energy-Intensive Industries (with the Czech Association of Chemical Industry), and the Fundamental Challenges of Renewable Energy Storage (with MPG Berlin). Our exposition at this year’s Czech Science Fair was also a success. We utilised several of our exhibits from our Energy the Smart Way exhibition which was presented at the Expo in Dubai.
The fields of research presented are also the ones which CAS institutes are involved in via the CAS Strategy AV21 research programmes. Is the choice of topics deliberate, not least in order to give them more visibility and to acquire additional forms of support, including funding?
It’s true that we’re also focusing on these topics as part of the CAS Strategy AV21. It is even possible that the existence of research teams successfully working together has made it easier for us to select topics, but there was certainly no conscious intention. All three research areas are pressing issues, which is why we chose them. On the other hand, it is current demands the Strategy AV21 is responding to; for instance, gene therapy, preclinical drug testing, virology, space technology, land conservation and restoration, public policies... It is therefore no coincidence that the Strategy AV21 has helped us formulate our current objectives. Let’s hope these activities will help us capture the public’s attention to an even greater degree.
How do you assess the scientific footprint of the Czech Republic in Europe today? How has our membership in the EU helped us in this respect?
On a global scale, the quality and standard of our research institutions are well regarded. We fall within a decent average, which is in line with our capabilities. In certain fields which have a tradition in our country, such as chemistry, we are certainly above average. Our EU membership allows us to participate in international open grant competitions, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, there is still room for improvement of our success rate due to the high level of competition. This in itself, however, is a broader problem that affects the whole of the former Eastern Bloc.
Will it be more difficult in the coming months and years to promote research priorities on a pan-European scale? Or could this be, conversely, an opportunity to convince politicians to invest more resources in science and research?
Regardless of the rewards, we must always do our best – then, the results will come. I cannot foresee what the situation in Europe will be in a few years’ time, as did no one foresee the war in Ukraine and its massive consequences. Perhaps the current crisis will unite Europe – perhaps it will get worse. One thing is certain: we must do our work well, be grateful our fellow citizens are willing to invest in research, and continue to try to explain why this investment is necessary.