Economic growth and sustainable energy need 'strong balance'

Posted on 12 June 2012

International Economic Forum of the AmericasWEC chairman Pierre Gadonneix recently called for a “strong balance” between economic recovery and energy sustainability.

On 12 June, he said at the International Economic Forum of the Americas that “sustainable growth needs a sustainable energy system.” He told political and business decisionmakers at the Forum that this need is particularly strong given the backdrop of the economic crisis, rising energy demand, record oil prices, and climate change posing a threat to future growth.

He added that economic growth and sustainable energy can be reconciled because cost-competitive, low-carbon technologies already exist. These include demand management; combined-cycle gas turbines, hydro, nuclear, wind for electricity generation; and geothermal and biomass cogeneration for heat.

Above all, energy efficiency is absolutely key. Renewables “are an important part of the solution”. But in choosing which technologies to deploy, decisionmakers must consider the technologies’ deployment timeframe (and therefore cost), their location and possibility to be integrated into the grid, and their contribution to local energy independence and jobs.

Pierre Gadonneix speaking on BNN

Pierre Gadonneix speaking on Canada’s Business News Network (BNN) at the conference.

For renewables to live up to their full potential to foster sustainable growth, two conditions must be met, he said. One is that renewables – like other forms of energy – must be accepted by the public. Hydropower could cause human displacement and affect biodiversity; wind energy could be expensive and impact on the landscape; and photovoltaics may use up vast amounts of land and result in pollutant emissions during the PV manufacturing process.

“Solutions to overcome these difficulties exist. But they have to be integrated well upstream in the decision processes, by responsible industrial leaders who can develop specific know-how and solutions on a large scale,” Gadonneix said.

Second, a solid skills base is needed to “improve technologies” in areas such as intermittency and storage. Expertise is also key to developing “sound deployment policies” based on a thorough assessment of technologies and their costs. Therefore energy decisonmakers must “sit together and adopt, through renewed governance, some clear common rules for all technologies to enhance their safety and their acceptability”.

The WEC’s mission, he said, is to help create “this global cooperation”. It will therefore “seize the opportunity of the forthcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit to push this idea forward, as part of the global solution for sustainable energy fuelling sustainable growth for all.”