A few days ago, I caught the photo below through the train window when traveling over the rainy landscape between Maastricht and the Zaventem airport of Brussels.
The scene is typical for the development where wind and solar panels are growing rapidly in Europe. Investments are made both in governmental projects and by citizens that want to get less dependent.
At the European Energy Conference, some said that the cost for the new technologies need to decrease further to become competitive with the traditional energy sources, without subsidies. Others said that the cost increase is marginal in a holistic perspective and that it is well justified, from a trade balance standpoint, for governments and other public bodies to invest in both energy efficiency and supply.
As the cost for energy increases further, new technologies becomes feasible. I learned that wind power now supply 7% of the electricity in Germany and that by 2020 some 20% should be covered by wind mills.
Javier Solana stressed the geopolitical factors and in particular the relation of economic growth and the energy use. The challenge is to meet the seemingly constantly increasing energy need from the citizens without sacrificing economy and environment. Or as Javier Solana expressed it:
“Successful commercial organizations always have a plan B when meeting a risk scenario, just in case the plan A does not work out.
Politicians of today don’t have a planet B to fall back on in case we would waste the only planet we have.”
Steven Koonin (Science and Technology Institute, USA) gave an excellent overview of US perspective on Energy politics. And, to some extent also questioned the established truths. Is it possible to decouple the energy use from economic growth? Some frustration was expressed of the fact that lots of research and inventions (such as Lithium ion batteries) are realized in the US while the fruits are harvested in other parts of the world.