Leaks and politics enliven EFEF
Wow, another big conference in London. This time it’s the 2nd annual European Future Energy Forum, a Masdar-sponsored event that had its debut in Bilbao last year. And it lasts three whole days.
So we have 3713 registered delegates, though fewer than 900 actually attended, and 112 speakers (maybe 113 if you include a virtual speaker - Prime Minister David Cameron on video) at the ExCel Centre, a giant conference centre on the Thames east of London, near the old docks. Alas, the docks are long gone and the old warehouses have mainly been turned into luxury housing with names like “Cinnamon Wharf”.
The location inspired several speakers, including Dr Sultan al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, to recall the first industrial revolution and call for a new one, of course a low carbon revolution.
With Masdar a centre of “revolutionary” clean tech activity, Siemens took the opportunity of the conference to announce its new Middle East headquarters in Masdar City. The company will implement an “innovative power grid” for the initial phase of Masdar and do R&D on CCS.
The main conference themes were, as usual at renewable energy conferences, passionate pleas for more stable government policy and for more private sector involvement.
Quite justly, as it was a European conference, tribute was paid to Dr Hermann Scheer, the great European champion of renewable energy who sadly died the week before the conference.
I can only give you the highlights which started with the UK’s Secretary of State for Climate Change Chris Huhne making more green noises. He spoke one day before the UK’s Comprehensive Spending Review was announced, and leaks proliferated at EFEF.
Most notably, it was leaked that the UK’s new feed-in tariff, introduced only in April 2010, would be cut by only 10%. Some had feared, with “cuts” being the operative word in Britain these days, that the new Coalition government would get rid of FIT or cut it much more drastically, though few thought that existing contracts could be cut retrospectively, as per the Spanish specter. So this leak cheered many solar installers and other renewable energy players.
In fact, reality beat the leak. The spending review left FIT at current levels over 2011, to be reduced in 2012, as per current planning. Another review is due in 2013.
Another leak: Maria McCaffrey, CEO of Renewable UK, was happy to have heard that infrastructure around ports was to be preserved. This was later confirmed by Prime Minister David Cameron who said: “We need thousands of offshore turbines in the next decade and beyond.” He said that up to £60 million would be committed to help assure private sector investment to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at our ports. He indicated that 70,000 jobs could be created.”
Huhne restated his commitment to a Green Investment Bank and sure enough, the next day we found it was to have a grand total of £1 billion, much lower than rumoured. Only £1 billion to assure we don’t all fall into rising seas by 2050…? Somehow I don’t think it’s quite enough but, as we say here, it’s a start.
Big prize money
The Zayed Future Energy Prize, named for the late ruler of Abu Dhabi, had its own session and workshop. At this point, thousands of nominations have been received, the nominees all hoping to bag the big prize of $1.5 million, the largest environmental award in the world.
Underlining the reverence – if not the money - that politicians now accord to “future energy”, Boris Johnson, London’s colourful mayor, was also on the programme. He turned up late on the third day, blaming his lateness on public transport, which is, of course, one of his areas of responsibility.
Johnson vowed that London will be the world’s leader in low carbon technology and sang the praises of his programmes, like mass retrofit and wall to wall EVs. At the moment, his main achievement is a bicycle fleet, dubbed “Boris Bikes” by the media. Johnson claims a lower theft level than Paris.
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