Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency

World Sustainable Energy Days a Success

Last week saw the return of the World Sustainable Energy Days conference which is held every year in Wels, Upper Austria. Taking place over three days (plus a day of site visits), the conference has three main streams: the European Pellet Conference, the European Energy Efficiency Conference and Regional Biomass Action Plans.

Austria is an apt location for the conference — along with Sweden it is well known as one of Europe’s biggest users of pellet technology — and as the final remnants of this year’s snow melted away it is plain to see why. With cold winters and real enthusiasm for efficient and sustainable building, the demand for renewable heat is strong. The country is also highly forested, providing ample raw material for pellet production in the form of sawdust and wood shavings from sawmills (along with other biomass waste).

It’s therefore no surprise that the tone of the conference was positive, with little of the doom and gloom that we have come to expect in recent times. Early discussion was of issues in market development — issues addressed practically in subsequent sessions on regional biomass action plans. Later the focus turned towards technical issues including energy efficient drying of sawdust, pellet production from different raw materials and increasing the ash melting temperature of pellets.

The energy efficiency stream of the conference started out by looking at the key issue of what people actually want from energy — the services it can provide. The goal is to meet these demands using less energy, and the subsequent sessions covered a wide range of methods and proposals by which this may be accomplished, including smart metering and how to price electricity to encourage utilities to promote efficiency. It wrapped up with sessions on policies and technology for energy efficient cooling.

Anyone who made it out of the Stadthalle (the main conference venue) and across to the exhibition center was greeted by the huge Energiesparmesse, a more trade and consumer oriented event. Stretching through multiple halls and attended by in excess of 100,000 people, it was testament to the popularity of sustainable building and renewable energy in the region.

In the conference halls, there was a tangible sense of deals being forged and contacts made. It was encouraging to note the diverse international attendance — all to often the developments taking place in Austria, Germany and the like are opaque to other countries, probably in large part due to language issues. The real efficiency of events such as this is in information exchange — opening up the example of this region’s successes to be followed and built upon by the rest of the world.

Mike Fell is commissioning editor for renewable energy at Earthscan publishers.