Christopher J Goncalves
Berkeley Research Group
1800 M Street NW, Second Floor
20036, Washington, USA
Peers and clients say:
"Christopher is experienced at giving oral evidence"
"He produces great draft reports"
"You will not find a better expert for knowledge of the LNG market"
Christopher Goncalves is chair and managing director of BRG’s energy and climate practice, where he provides energy industry and quantum expert analysis and testimony for international investment and commercial arbitration matters. He has provided expert services for over 50 international investment and commercial disputes, including oral testimony in over 18 arbitration hearings. Mr Goncalves also has over 30 years of experience in energy sector dispute resolution, strategic and commercial advisory, project development, and finance and investment.
What benefits accompany introducing experts early in the dispute resolution process?
The benefits can be many, depending upon the complexity of the matter and experience of the expert. In my experience with complex energy sector disputes, working early with counsel and clients on the initial evaluation of potential claims, review of critical facts and evidence, exploration of appropriate analytic methodologies, and development of strategic approach can provide significant benefits in terms of developing a solid claim or defence that is based on the facts, consistent with industry practices and conditions, analytically accurate, and therefore highly credible and sustainable for the duration of the dispute. Among my most rewarding professional experiences have been engagements that required working early with clients on large complex matters where my team’s work helped define and determine the overall dispute approach and strategy from the beginning and provided decisive evidence for the tribunal in the final hearings.
Over the past few years, have you noticed any significant methodological changes in the way you conduct your analyses?
Yes, in the world of energy disputes I have found that analysis of causation has become increasingly important for analysis of both the merits and quantum of claims. Because of the large and increasing number of energy disputes, I have found that arbitrators have become increasingly knowledgeable and exacting in their analysis of critical issues. Additionally, in the natural gas, LNG, power generation, and renewable energy sectors where I am most active, the dual trends of market liberalisation and maturation (in terms of scale, competition, depth, and liquidity issues) have led to increasingly complex multi-variable conditions. I have found that the combination of these trends has made it increasingly important – and challenging and interesting – for clients, counsel, and experts to provide rigorous analysis of the underlying cause of harm and damages, and to distinguish those causes from influential factors that may be involved in the broader industry, market, or commercial context for the matter under dispute.
How does the overlap between your contentious and non-contentious practice enhance your expertise and capabilities?
My contentious and advisory practices are mutually reinforcing, and I maintain them both deliberately, and with equal dedication. Over the first half of my career (to date), I served strictly as an energy industry consultant and adviser on market, commercial, financial, and strategic matters related to project development, project finance, and business unit management and operations for natural gas and clean fuels, power generation renewable energy. I became an expert witness for the first time approximately fifteen years ago, and ever since then, the strength of my industry experience, and my economic and financial knowledge of the industry has underpinned and enhanced the depth and credibility of my expert work. But in becoming an expert, I did not stop serving as a strategic, market, and commercial advisor to energy industry clients, and I have continued that practice to the present day. In my advisory work, I have often found that my experience with dispute resolution and arbitration has made me a better advisor because I have the experience and understanding of what happens in dispute resolution in situations where the underlying investment thesis, market and/or commercial conditions, of contractual practices for a project or business come undone. In each of my contentious and advisory practices, it helps to understand where the “rubber meets the road” in the other arena.
What distinguishes Berkeley Research Group from its competitors when it comes to assisting clients with climate change matters?
The imperative of climate change mitigation and facilitating the energy transition have become an abiding passion of me and my colleagues. These are enormous global and inter-generational challenges that are of a humbling scale seen from our focused practice of just over 40 professionals worldwide. Therefore, our team is focused on providing strategic and tactical advisory services to industry clients navigating the opportunities and challenges of the energy transition, and deep industry economic, commercial, and financial expertise to counsel and clients engaged in investment and commercial disputes about stranded or impaired assets, projects, and/or contracts. In so doing, we apply the depth of our industry experience across the energy supply chain, from the production and commercialisation of conventional and clean fuels to the generation, transmission, and sale of conventional power generation, renewable energy, and electricity storage products.
To what extent are post-pandemic energy transition initiatives “too much, too soon”, and why?
Seen from my home in Washington, DC, as well as from the entirety of my international experience, this is a politically delicate question. While the risk and apparent mounting impacts of climate change require that we all manage the energy transition with urgency, it is also true that extreme haste can produce ineffective and/or counterproductive results in terms of both GHG emissions and socio-economic impacts. This is because energy transition policies and strategies need to be realistic and pragmatic about maintaining adequate energy supply in the most economically and environmentally efficient way possible. When climate aspirations run to quickly ahead of these realities, for example, by seeking to ban or defund all fossil fuels before renewable energy and storage technologies can pick the slack, the results can be quite dire in terms of increasing GHG-intensive coal consumption at the expense of cleaner fuels, increasing GHG emissions, driving up energy prices to industries and households, stimulating inflation, and diminishing economic growth. In my view, maximising the velocity of the energy transition to clean fuels and renewable energy will require that countries and companies pursue a strategic approach that is pragmatic, well-sequenced and firmly grounded in the realities of energy economics, investment, finance, and operations. Such an approach would maximise the availability of affordable clean energy supply throughout the process and phase out the most GHG-intensive energy supplies in a sequenced approach after clean energy supplies are ready to maintain reliable, affordable supply.
As chair and managing director of BRG’s energy and climate practice, how are you looking to further build the firm’s offering in these areas over the next couple of years?
Our practice is proud of what we have built so far and looking forward to enhancing and deepening our work and capabilities in clean fuels, renewable energy, and energy storage above all. We intend to expand our strategic, transactional, and commercial advisory services in these areas. We also aim to expand our dispute resolution work in relation to stranded or impaired assets, projects, and/or contracts that may result from the energy transition. In doing these things, we expect to expand our team’s overall size, range of expertise, and international footprint quite substantially.