Interview with Calvin Jones

Published on April 19, 2013 in 2013 Conference Reports, Economy, Video

After his talk at the conference, Calvin Jones was interivewed by RSPB’s Mark Robins.

Calvin, you made a point about the history in Wales about chasing more and more of the marginal economic benefits. Can you just say something about that?
“Well, I think in the past we’ve got a lot benefit from energy clearly and energy opportunities although difficult and dangerous to access in terms of coal, was relatively local, sucked up quite a lot of employment. What we seem to be doing now with predicating the Severn as an economic generator and a jobs generator is looking for energies further and further away with fewer and fewer economic benefits and of course you might
argue that the environmental benefit in terms of that the amount of energy we get from that require huge amounts of investment over and above fossil fuels. So we have ask the question why we are we doing this what sort of benefits are we looking to stream through these?”

So when we try to re-imagine a better future for the Severn, you made a couple points about who owns the benefits in the situation and how does that work for the long term? Could you just reflect on that?
“Well I think what we have in the UK particularly is an energy system which is largely privatised or heavily regulated and that means we make decisions based on current market price or projected market price.
Now, you look what happened in say France in the sixties and they just decided that nuclear was good and fossil fuels were yesterdays news, for better or worse, they have a very very low carbon freight of power generators now, so I think if we could make these decisions about what benefits we are likely to get from the Severn in terms of environmental savings and carbon savings and of course economic benefit we have to do that with a knowledge that we can’t really own the sea bed albeit a one remove the benefits of that sea bed, yes they might be in terms of lease or of money, but can we get any capacity derived of social capital for example driving from that sea bed if we are more involved as a society the exploitation.”

So how can we set those new twenty-first century objectives for this fantastic complex of ports, cities, energy resources and nature? How can we reset the objectives for this extrodinarily west of Britain concentration?
“Well, if I knew that I probably wouldn’t be here talking about it; but are we doing it? What we need to do is think about whether ownership models and I think it comes down to ownership, ownership is control and what we’ve done in the past is we we’ve given control to very narrow interests in order to make it easier for the public sector to function. That’s not in the mid eighties; we have to stop that I think and the public sector both at a national state level and local level has to be more involved in genuinely generating as well as commissioning and regulating energy. Then once we’re involved the public-sector society as a whole understands the trade offs far more and we can hopefully make better decisions. What the legal model is, I don’t know.

We’ve begin a journey here which takes us from where we’ve been in the past rather dominated by a couple of technologies or you know slight investment systems which don’t provide good long term benefits for this system. Have we started a journey to find a better way
forward today do you think?

“I hope we have. What’s been encouraging is that we haven’t fetishized technology today, what we’ve done is actually not worried if it’s wave versus wind, largely which I think is distraction.
And we have talked much more about the appropriate structures that can enable investment. So in looking beyond the facade, of the how and then to the why I think we’ve certainly moved a way forward.”