Renewables Must Play a Key Role in World Energy Solutions

Renewable energy should be the basis for production, distribution and consumption of energy, the World Energy Council has told the United Nations.

NEW YORK, New York, US, 2001-04-19 <> The U.N.’s Commission on Sustainable Development is holding two weeks of discussion from stakeholders on the issue of energy, and the current theme is the use of sustainable choices. CSD has invited a number of expert panelists to discuss the problems and solutions, and to build consensus for possible action. Despite extensive schemes to bring energy to rural populations over the last decade, two billion people still lack access to reliable energy sources and the world is not doing enough to help the poor population, says Emad El-Sharkawi of the World Energy Council. Governments and business should play a role in implementing effective strategies to promote the transition from biomass fuels to more efficient sources of energy, such as electricity. Renewable energy is unlimited in supply, but cannot compete with conventional energy sources without subsidies, he says. Renewables are largely intermittent and require backup sources, but the economics of wind energy have improved when combined with storage. Another expert panelist, Richard Ottinger of Pace University, says non-sustainable energy systems result in inequitable patterns of energy use and produce serious air pollution. If fully costed, he says many traditional production systems are significantly more expensive than environmentally preferable alternatives, and greater use of alternatives avoid the need to pay twice for traditional technologies: once to operate and again to clean up their harmful effects. If sustainable energy systems are to be adopted, subsidies must be eliminated for environmentally-damaging energy use, he says, including the external costs in costing analyses and comparing energy resources on the basis of their life cycle rather than just their initial cost. All scenarios for sustainable energy use include a significant increase in the use of geothermal, wind, solar, biomass, hydro and marine resources. The bulk of the world’s primary energy will come from fossil fuels for some time, and he says it is crucial to seize all opportunities for making fossil fuel consumption more clean and efficient. All regulatory impediments to energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources of energy should be eliminated, he suggests, and the use of hydrogen fuel should be promoted. There should be an increase in research of carbon dioxide sequestration, including standards for the permanency of storage, as well as accelerated research on advanced technologies and deployment of renewable energy technologies.

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