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Global Energy Prize and Breakthrough Institute

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the 2008 International Global Energy Prize award ceremony

The Christmas to New Year period is traditionally ‘hibernation mode’ for blogs, when page views and comment counts plummet (my hits have dropped about 70% compared to early December!).

I suppose this is a time when people find better things to do than sit in front of a computer screen (family time, good food, beach/snow [depending on hemisphere], travel, reading, new games and toys, whatever). So during this activity lull, it’s as good a time as any to announce a few little personal triumphs.

Within the last month or so I received two tokens of recognition for my work in the sustainable energy space. To explain what, I reproduce below a short write-up done by the University of Adelaide’s media office. I’ve added a few relevant hyperlinks and cites, for further information.


International recognition for Environment Professor

The University of Adelaide’s Professor Barry Brook — an environmental scientist who holds strong pro-nuclear energy views — has received recognition from two prominent international bodies.

Professor Brook, who is Director of Climate Science at the University’s Environment Institute, has become the first Australian appointed to the international award committee of the $1.2 million Global Energy Prize.

Known as the “Nobel Prize of Energy”, this is the most prestigious international award granted for outstanding scientific achievements in the field of energy that have benefited the human race. From Wikipedia:

The Global Energy Prize is an independent award for outstanding scientific research and technological development in energy, which contribute to efficiency and environmentally friendly energy sources for the benefit of humanity.

The award was established in Russia, through the non-commercial Global Energy partnership and with the support of leading Russian energy companies Gazprom, FGC UES and Surgutneftegaz. Laureates are presented with their award by the President of Russia.

The Global Energy Prize promotes energy development as a science and demonstrates the importance of international energy cooperation, as well as public and private investment in energy supply, energy efficiency and energy security. It stands for the belief that advances in science and technology should serve the long-term interests of human development, improving social security and living standards of people in all countries.

Barry Brook

Professor Brook has also been made a 2012 Senior Fellow at the California-based think tank, The Breakthrough Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to “modernizing liberal thought for the 21st Century” and creating “secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet”.

Both appointments are in recognition of Professor Brook’s work on energy policy. He holds strong views on the use of nuclear energy and alternative energy systems from an economic, environmental and scientific point of view.

“I’m honoured to have been chosen for the international selection committee of the Global Energy Prize and as a fellow of The Breakthrough Institute within a short space of each other,” Professor Brook says.

“Although many environmentalists consider nuclear power to be somehow anti-environment, it’s my firm belief that nuclear energy actually offers a viable low-carbon, low-impact alternative that cannot be matched by other low-carbon solutions.

“The reality is that any of the main ‘green energy’ solutions – solar, wind, geothermal – are expensive and won’t be sufficient for displacing fossil fuels. Even if we were willing and able to pay for them, the result, without nuclear being part of the mix, would be an unacceptably unreliable energy supply system,” he says.

In addition to his extensive research, supervision and public outreach duties, Professor Brook runs a highly popular blog on climate change and energy options.

The blog – – has already received more than three million page hits and fifty thousand comments since he established it in August 2008.

In that time, Professor Brook’s own views have shifted towards nuclear energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, with a particular emphasis on next-generation technologies that recycle nuclear waste, are passively safe, and provide a truly sustainable energy source.

Professor Brook blogs about scientific findings and commentary from a range of sources, including many of his colleagues who work in the fields of conservation, climate, environment and energy science.

Tom Wigley

One such colleague is University of Adelaide Adjunct Professor Tom Wigley (from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in the United States). Professor Wigley has also been made a 2012 Senior Fellow at The Breakthrough Institute.


So, there you have it. Tom Wigley, also a 2012 BTI Senior Fellow, is a good friend and colleague of mine, and we are currently writing a couple of new papers on energy systems and global decarbonisation options in relation to climate change mitigation, which will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals next year.

Tom and I will be attending The Breakthrough Dialogue in California in June 2012, where we’ll join Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus, Jesse Jenkins and many others for a stimulating brainstorming workshop on energy, policy and the environment (see here for a wrap of the 2011 event).

The Global Energy Prize for 2012 is now accepting nominations — details here. In sum:

The winner of the 2012 Prize will be selected by an International Prize Award Committee, which includes 37 internationally-based scientists and specialists, as well as representatives of international research organisations. The award will be given for outstanding achievement in the field of energy, including:

— discoveries, inventions and fundamental research providing new opportunities for energy industry development;

— development projects, engineering improvements and application-oriented innovations which create new ways of using energy more efficiently;

— discoveries, inventions and theoretical R&D projects opening up new energy sources as well as opportunities for using them;

— discoveries, inventions and research which have resulted in finding breakthrough approaches to addressing energy transmission and energy saving challenges;

— discoveries, inventions and research which have materially contributed to the solution of environment protection and development problems as well as opened up new and feasible ways of using innovative energy conversion method.

I’ll be visiting Russia twice a year (St. Petersburg and Moscow) for the GEP selection deliberations and awards ceremony. As you might guess, I can’t wait!


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

34 replies on “Global Energy Prize and Breakthrough Institute”

This recognition is more than just nice.

It is more evidence, if such was needed, that Barry’s work is exceptional; that there is real depth and strength to it.

I am sure that I echo others’ thoughts in saying that I derive great personal value from BNC, which is one of very few sites which publish absolutely any opinion on matters energy and climate, provided that it has been substantiated.

Many thanks, Barry, for finding time in a busy schedule to run this blog. It is one of a kind.


Thanks to all, humbly appreciated. As to the blog – it lives and breathes because of people like you — you are collectively a big motivation for why I continue to do this, despite the occasional frustration!


A nicely balanced duo Barry. Good luck with both, but you need to be prepared to answer those who would argue that the Breakthrough Institute is a haven for ‘technocornucopians’ or those who believe in business as usual plus technical innovation. You can get a gist of their critique from current comments on The Oil Drum blog.


Bravo. Well deserved recognition for the often-challenging drudgery of continuing to question, think, write and act.


Congratulations Barry. Keep up the good work and hopefully one day Australia will change its policy against the use of nuclear energy – hopefully before we have exported all our Uranium. As you well know, I am a climate sceptic, but believe we should exploit the advantages we have economically and reduce real pollution. I have been following your posts on Nuclear energy very closely and with great interest.
Best wishes,
John Nicol


Thanks again all, much appreciated.

Someone asked me by email about the Breakthrough Institute position. It is an honorary one — no stipend etc. attached (as indeed is also the case with the GEP committee). The financial arrangements for both extend only to providing some travel and accommodation costs for my visits.


Congratulations on the appointment to the Global Energy Prize, but I don’t know much about the Breakthrough Institute … but the front page of the website extolling the virtues of a fossil fuel … shale oil … sets off warning bells in my head.


Geoff, the stuff on the BTI front page about shale gas is focussed on the issue of how govt investments can pay off (i.e., it was not all the private market as some espouse), rather than a judgement of whether the investment itself is environmentally sound.


By golly.
You guys may very well be successful in getting NP in Australia!!
Thank you for letting a retired ME that spent his entire career in gas turbines post on your forum!
Happy New Year.
Please hurry up w/ the next lead article!


So it is Tom Blees. Silly me. Please forgive an honest mistake. Meanwhile I shall get on with preparing my next pro nuclear speech to the Retired Engineers Group entitled “Climate Change, Future Energy, Nuclear Myths Exposed and Uranium’s Role In Future SA Development” -four short speeches for the price of one and put together after 13 years of personal research and speaking for the nuclear power generating industry. Send me your email address if you’re interested in reading it. Happy New Year everyone. Terry


Couldn’t happen to a more deserving environmentalist. Have a good trip Barry. I do hope you take some pictures on your trip, just for fun. :) Regarding that “nuclear lies Australia” link, I’m wondering if it’s related to other anonymous postings on the net trying to slander Barry as a uranium shill. *shrug*


Oh! By the way guys, Don’t forget to listen in to my Ockham’s Razor talk on Sunday Jan 15th at 8.45am on Radio National.


Well done Barry! A pleasure to know you and a privilege to work with you.

Tom, Terry, surely some form of excellent zoom lens would do the trick?

Geoff, BTI focus on shale is definitely on reminding/ informing people that no breakthroughs in energy have ever occurred without considerable and sustained public sector support.


Congratulations Barry !

Would be nice if the recognitions had more directly funded your research, but you’re clearly being funded to give speeches to the Breakthrough audience and cameras of a wider influence.

I imagine that a mostly-American audience would be most receptive of a non-American praising what America has done well and what America could do more of. Any revolutionary ideas might need to follow the sugar coating.

No doubt we will hear what you presented. If BNCers may offer suggestions…

American leadership in science has shaped relationships with our environments worldwide. The world will come to rely more and more on America-led research in atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere. In particular, a treaty-honoring world needs a dedicated CO2-monitoring instrument in orbit, with a resolution of a kilometre or so.

In nuclear engineering, America has provided us with the means for generating power without CO2. All praise to the emergence of the AP1000, but we still need a user-proof, bargain-basement, Gen IV workhorse for a mass roll-out worldwide.

American diplomacy has for decades maintained a peaceful world in which developing nations can industrialise. Now, with the growing awareness that climate change presents risks of far worse hazards than any nuclear proliferation, we need an American-led global nuclear roll-out — and an internationally controlled nuclear fuel cycle. (see GNEP)

We have seen how American democracy responded to a youthful movement against the Vietnam War. As today’s youth realise that the emissions of today must be paid for, by their generation and beyond, we must expect the evolution of a youth-led demand for response to crisis. We should pray that the world’s democracies can respond in time. However that process may require a Breakthrough. That Breakthrough, whatever it is, may come from you, among this audience today.


Moderator, would it be possible — in politeness — to delete my comment above, please? As the Breakthrough Dialogue of June is getting close, it dawns on me that other participants in the Dialogue may read and be misled by it, mistaking the author for Barry.


@Barry Whew, it is a relief to hear you say that. I was afraid that I had been tactless in putting myself in your shoes in the first instance, and then that my comments would interfere with what you were trying to say to the Institute.


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