Interviews with EFEF speakers - what are the big issues affecting the future of energy...

Prof. Mario Paolone, Distributed Electrical Systems Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
1. Improvement of structure and operational practices of electrical distribution network to maximize the penetration of non-dispatchable power production systems essentially coming from renewables.
2. Low-cost and long-life storage systems (essentially distributed rather than centralized).
3. Maximize the integration of electrical and transportation systems.

How do you think we can make a difference?
1. Integrating multi-disciplinary knowledge within the fields of engineering, physics and applied maths.
2. Promote large initiatives (sponsored by EU, Nation Government and, above all, companies and investors) for the deployment of available technologies into the development and operation of electrical and transportation infrastructures.

Why are you attending EFEF?
To interact with people coming from different areas (research, economy business) dealing with the field of Energy.

Professor Steven Griffiths, Executive Director, Office of Institute Initiatives, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
A major issue is the need to accelerate the pace at which clean technologies are deployed in advanced as well as developing economies. Without a sharp increase in the rate of deployment, the problems of climate change and energy poverty will become greatly exacerbated.
There is a broad awareness that the deployment of clean energy technologies is critical to addressing concerns about climate change mitigation and adaption, energy security, universal energy access and low-carbon social and economic development. However, market failures, such as inability of private firms to appropriate the returns from clean technology innovation and the lack of accounting for the full social and economic cost fossil fuel energy sources, have created substantial gaps in access to the financial resources for broad demonstration and deployment of clean technologies.
In order to overcome the stated issues, transparent, stable and predictable government policies must be implemented to provide both market pull and technology push (i.e. R&D) stimuli for clean technology research, development, demonstration and deployment.

How do you think we can make a difference?
We must continue to provide forums for exchange of knowledge and information that will facilitate the R&D and policy development activities required for clean technology deployment. Such dialogues are critical for coming up aligning key stakeholders with plans that are action-oriented and correctly targeted.

Why are you attending EFEF?
I am interested in providing an expert view on clean technology R&D and policy and interacting with other experts that will help further the global dialogue.
 

Nick Beglinger, President, Swiss Cleantech

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
Regulatory framework supporting decentralized production, intelligent networks, geothermal, local/short-term energy storage and seasonal energy storage.

How do you think we can make a difference?
Political lobbying for sustainable policy and through a network of leading cleantech companies (via swisscleantech.ch, globalcleantech.org, ffgs.org)

Why are you attending EFEF?
Positioning Switzerland as a cleantech leader, thereby also making a contribution to sustainable development on a global level.
 

Renat Heuberger, Chairman, Southpole Carbon Asset Management

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
Ensuring economic development without piling up burdens for coming generations. A joint approach with respect to carbon emissions, biodiversity and prosperity for all mankind is the big challenge for all of us.

How do you think we can make a difference?
Everybody can think about small but effective steps in their personal lives – as an example, I just turned to efficient light bulbs in my apartment. But way more important is finding the most efficient ways to turn down carbon on a large scale for the emerging economies' path to prosperity. Responsible business leaders can give answers already today.

Why are you attending EFEF?
We at South Pole Carbon have efficient answers for the future of energy – at EFEF I want to meet similar minded decision makers to discuss synergies and develop even more solutions for a striving planet.
 

Peter Johnson, VP Smart Grid Business Development, Alcatel-Lucent

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
The future of energy is a mix of alternative energy sources and changing demand so that it tracks supply.  Nothing innovative there.  But what has to be addressed and where innovation is needed are the three key enablers to make this happen. 
1. The first is regulation.  Today's regulation is enabling investment in the periphery:  encouraging alternative production and demand management.  It also needs to focus on the bits in the middle: transmission and particularly distribution.  Only regulation can enable and encourage the necessary investment required to make these areas capable of intelligently handling the innovations in production and consumption. 
2. The second enabler is the distribution communciations network.  It is often said that the distribution network was designed as a one way path for energy.  This is true and it is equally true that it will become a two way path.  With embedded generation, demand management and electric vehicles, system managment is going to become increasingly distributed and automated.  Communications is already spreading to the periphery of the distribution network, but for these sorts of applications it will have to become not just universal but extremely robust.
3. Finally there need to be focus on the consumer.  In the telco network it took some time for the "subscriber" to become a "customer".  This has to happen in the energy market and utilities will have to go through the same revolution in consumer handling as telcos did with subscribers.  Why is this a key enabler?  Because with an increasingly energy savvy customer base, with Electric Vehicles (EVs) liable to take off, driving the need to be able to manage the load created by these vehicles, the utility is going to have to take the consumer into their confidence and partner with them to manage their energy networks. That way the consumer will understand the options and will make commercial decisions about how they use energy that can benefit the utility.  The alternative is a standoff, where the utility is liable to lose.
 
How do you think we can make a difference?
There are three things that we can do. 
1. Engage in the future of energy now.  In Alcatel-Lucent we are doing just that where in Bell Lab's Murray Hill, NJ, headquarters we have installed a 1.2MW solar panel array as part of our committment to environmental sustainability. 
2. Engage in the network.  The energy network is going to get far more complicated.  It needs to be simple to manage.  Companies such as Alcatel-Lucent are dedicated to making sure, through our communications and data management solution that it becomes more simple to manage.
3. Engage with the consumer.  Get the consumer on our side and understanding the issues involved.  Allow the consumer to be in control, but make it simple for the customer to engage.  As simple as choosing between "economy" and "comfort": just those two parameters will make all the difference to realising energy efficiencies for the consumer.  Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs are engaged in just such projects with a number of our customers.  For example we are bringing communications technology to the smart grid allowing customers to make energy choices—in real time, online, from anywhere—empowering them to save energy and money every day. All while helping support their mission-critical operations with uncompromised reliability and security.  Alcatel-Lucent is running more than 80 mission critical networks and smart grid transformations worldwide.  And with our new Bell Labs innovation - advanced analytical techniques and tools, utilities can mine the wealth of information from smart meters, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and other data to provide the utility with the ability to measure, monitor and control their electricity distribution network in real time with unprecedented levels of detail. 
 
Why are you attending EFEF?
Alcatel-Lucent is passionate about the environment.  This comes through in our own products and solutions, but also in our approach to the energy industry itself.  This is a forum in which we can share that passion and our experience in making that work for our utility customers. EFEF will be ideal place to explore innovation and share ideas around the industry on how we can all make a difference to the Future of Energy.
 

Giacomo Benvenuti, CTO, 3D-Oxides and Founder at ABCD Technologies

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
Energy is a central point in our world. The reserves are decreasing, while the consumption is increasing. Provide enough energy is a real challenge to foster economical and industrial growth and conserve our comfortable leaving. At the moment there are no technologies, or group of technologies, able to provide a long term solution to the problem. 
Soon or later we will have to reduce our consumption unless new technologies will allow us to harvest new forms of energy and with enhanced efficiencies and reduced costs. There are mainly 3 challenges:
1) As efficiencies will be at best enhanced by a factor of 3 to 10 in all known fields investigated today, harvesting costs optimisation in renewable energies are in the end strongly related to the reduction of raw materials use. At this level the costs can still be improved by orders of magnitude as miniaturization in microelectronics has demonstrated in the past.
2) A second challenge is to integrate the energy harvesting infrastructures into our living. This has not to be to the detriment of our leaving space, food cultures, or other useful gound surface and at the same time it should be accessible to convey the energy where it will be used. Efficient energy transportation from "non-exploitable lands" to our cities will be the second big challenge.
3) The third challenge is related to the impact on our world to harvest such very large quantities of energy. Whatever the collecting or production modes it will definitively have an impact when carried out at large scale. Today it is called CO2 and nuclear wastes, but what will be tomorrow wastes? Even renewable energies like photovoltaics, that is regarded as "safe", may have drawbacks due to the chemical species involved in the production processes. How can be CdTe cells considered as a clean, green, and sustainable technology? 
Pollution may not be only related to chemical or radioactive species, but could also be related to thermal pollution (strong variations of local temperatures), macroscopic effects on air and water flows and circulation, drastic reduction of raw materials over exploited in such production processes. I believe that as many approaches as possible will have to co-exist to limit any kind side effects. This can only be achieved by diversifying the research approaches and avoid targeting only one efficiency optimized technology.

How do you think we can make a difference?
I believe that a forum like EFEF can contribute to the exchange of ideas between the actors in the field: science, finance, and politics to discuss and progress hand in hand towards a solution as this must be clear that none of those parties can manage such a challenge alone.

Why are you attending EFEF?
It will be a good way to network, to have have an up to date and global vision in the field of energy and provide visibility to my companies.
 

Juan Diego Diaz Vega, Marketing Director, Gamesa

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
To find a cost efficient energy mix, reliable, predictable, environmentally friendly and without compromising the future.

How do you think we can make a difference?
Making every technology to show real performance in terms of cost efficiency, reliability, predictability and environmental friendliness and make decisions based on this energy technology score.
 
Why are you attending EFEF?
To show Gamesa points of views regarding Energy strategy.
 

Stefan Schurig, Director Climate and Energy, World Future Council

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
One of the most pressing challenges humanity faces today is the conversion of our energy production and supply industry towards a more sustainable, environmental friendly and efficient system. The energy transition is not a lifestyle choice but an essential way to save our planet and combat climate change. Politics play a crucial role in this process. But this conclusion has already been made 100 years ago. As Thomas Edison put it 1920: “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Natures inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that”.

Several reports, studies and experts have proofed that the transition to renewable energy is not only necessary but more importantly feasible. It is not a question of technical solutions but a matter of political will. Only with the right political framework that allows economic security, social equity and environmental benefits we can switch to 100% renewable energy and do not lose another 100 years.

How do you think we can make a difference?
The right political framework is the base for achieving climate protection goals, assuring social and economic development and securing the needed energy demand. It is the prerequisite to channel investments into the right direction. Therefore we need to identify policies that have proved to be successful, such as the Feed-in Tariff for renewable energy.

The European Future Energy Forum provides an important platform to exchange ideas, concepts and experiences among governments, private sector and civil society. It can raise awareness for integrative analysis and solutions, offer stakeholders to engage with the change-makers amongst decision-makers and further support participants by providing expertise and networks.

Why are you attending EFEF?
The World Future Council sees an opportunity in the EFEF to draw the attention of stakeholders to the existing best policies and practices and emphasise feasibility and opportunities. The World Future Council is globally known for its expertise on ‘policies for future generations’ and in particular on the development of renewable energy. Therefore the EFEF is a very important platform for sharing this expertise with key decision makers.
 

Stephen Woodhouse, Director, Pöyry Management Consulting

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
Whether and how the concept of competitive energy markets can coexist with the drive for decarbonisation

How do you think we can make a difference?
By fostering discussion on non-interventionist, pro-market ways of achieving a decarbonised energy system, In particular this must encompasses smart demand as well as supply-side solutions

Why are you attending EFEF?
It is one of the premier forums for intelligent, informed discussion on the decarbonisation agenda
 

David Hart, Director, E4tech

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
The pace of change in energy technologies, markets and support mechanisms is extremely rapid, so making robust decisions about what to build and where to invest is very hard. Couple this with very uncertain macro-economic trends and the understandable instinct in many companies and markets is to retrench - to do what they know best, not necessarily to take the steps forward that we need.

How do you think we can make a difference?
Asking the right questions and doing the right analysis is a good start! Also clear, well-explained policy making coupled with a longer-term perspective on investment and returns can be a big help. More philosophically, we have to convince both people and organisations to face up to the fact that although change is hard, the consequences of not changing will have a much more painful impact in the long run - and almost certainly in the short run too.

Why are you attending EFEF?
The mix of thought leaders from industry, research and policy - encompassing a wide range of future energy technologies - means that we have the opportunity to discuss the key issues facing us from all of the right perspectives, find some ways to address those issues, and make the essential human connections to help implement them.
 

Patrick Aebischer, President, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL)

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
The three major challenges for the 21st Century are Climate Change (due to CO2 emissions), Megacities (by 2035, more than 8 billion people will live in cities) and Health (aging population, population growth and epidemic prevention). All of these challenges have an energy element to them, especially when you consider the relationship between water, food production and energy. As the world population grows, the energy demand to maintain the world in water, food and electricity will expand exponentially. How we will manage this demand without further damaging the environment? Along the same lines, how can communicate the urgency of these developments to the general public based on scientific evidence without getting entangled in ideological battles?

How do you think we can make a difference?
Science and technology have allowed for important progress that has accelerated the consumption of earth’s natural resources. Now it is up to science to be the “honest broker;” telling the truth even if it is problematic, and to present the totality of possibilities for energy management based on solid knowledge. As a technical university, EPFL must also play the role of developing new technologies that are in themselves energy efficient or technologies that improve energy management. Both of our vetted EU flagship programs, Guardian Angels and Human Brain project, promise to have a lasting impact on energy policy by developing zero-energy personal devices or making strides in low-energy neuromorphic computing for supercomputers. An academic structure is also ideal for developing tailor-made solutions for governments looking to implement new energy strategies. EPFL Middle East, our collaboration with the UAE government in Ras-al-Khaimah, is a research and educational facility aimed at developing green energy technologies for the region such as climate driven architecture or smart grid technology. 
               
Why are you attending EFEF?
A blanket solution for the future of the world’s energy will not be possible, and the role of research institutions is to do the hard, groundbreaking work. But in order to be effective in this field, collaborations across industry and across borders is essential—researchers need to enter into dialogue with their academic counterparts in other countries as well as be in tune with industry needs. The EFEF is an ideal platform for these types of exchanges. Finally, it is a platform of communication, and communicating about the future of energy is an essential link in the process of finding solutions.
 

Miroslav Durana, Head Sustainability, Nanotechnology and Trend Indexes, Credit Suisse AG

What are the big issues for the Future of Energy at the moment?
Issue I: Growing energy scarcity
23% of population is without access to modern energy
More than 1.6 billion people (approx. 23% of the world's population) currently have no access to a modern form of energy at an affordable price. Without new energy policies, around 1.4 billion people will likely be without access to electricity and essential energy services by 2030.
Issue II: Oil
(1) Rising pressure from oil demand
Since 1950 the world’s population has grown 2.7 times, while oil demand has increased 8.6 times, mainly due to increasing urbanization and industrial activities, especially in emerging markets. This oil consumption pattern is not sustainable mainly due to depletion of oil reserves, in our view.
(2) Depleting oil reserves
Effectively, according to the International Energy Agency, today’s oil (proven) reserves are estimated to be between 50-65 years. In its last World Energy Outlook, IEA indicates that new oil fields have yet to be found to cover rising oil demand beyond 2015, indicating a potential major oil supply issue going forward.
Issue III: Nuclear power
In light of the recent nuclear accident in Japan, we expect that the current nuclear expansion may wane in the medium term, mainly due to growing popular and political resistance, and the need for enhanced safety standards (based on lessons learned from Japan's accident).
Issue IV: Coal power
Coal power plants are currently responsible for more than 40% of carbon emissions globally, as they have the highest CO2 emissions: approx. 950 grams/kWh, compared to approx. 450 g/kWh for combined gas cycle and less than 40 g/kWh for electricity produced from wind or solar systems.
Further, coal plants are very strong SO2, NOx and particulate matters emitters, compared to low or zero pollution emissions from gas, solar and wind power. This coal-linked pollution leads to high environmental and health cost impacts: the latter estimated at more than USD 300 bn annually in USA, Europe and China.
Secondly, coal plants typically have thermal (conversion) efficiencies of between 32-40%, which compare less favourably to the 85-90% conversion efficiencies for hydropower and 50-60% for advanced gas turbines, for instance.
 
How do you think we can make a difference?
The difference can be made by enhanced promotion of renewable energies, especially solar, wind and biomass power, notably through organizing of conferences and renewable energy forums in the future.

Why are you attending EFEF?
I am attending the EFEF in order to contribute through various panel discussions to promotion and further development of renewable energies in the future, and to exchange thoughts and ideas with other conference participants.