Wrong to leave energy issues only to the market

Posted on 14 October 2013

“It would be wrong to leave energy issues only to the market,” said Robert Kleiburg, COO of the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN).

Speaking at the RD&D session of the World Energy Congress on 14 October, Kleiburg explained that the close relationship between energy and politics as well as the large social impact of the energy sector on climate change meant that there should be a role for society in deciding what kind of energy system the world wants.

Ahn Namsung, President of Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP), agreed, “We need government involvement in the energy sector more than in other sectors.” Kleiburg stressed the necessity for government support where research projects have long time horizons from conception to roll-out, a view supported by Joël François Mesot, Director of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). “Take the MRI. It took 70 years from the first design experiment in nuclear physics all the way to the hospitals,” said Mesot, much longer than the period a company would require to make such a project economically viable. Speaking on the importance of supporting a wide range of research, Kleiburg said “as an investor you would never put all your money into a single stock. Governments should invest in a wide portfolio” while taking into account their country’s strengths.

The panel agreed on the need to form a Global Energy Research Agenda to more efficiently use limited tax dollars and promote the funding of social science research into energy issues. “In Korea, the government does not recognize the social science side of technological development,” said Ahn.

This news story is based on the What does It Take? session, “RD&D: Is government funding the key to innovating success?”,  at the 2013 World Energy Congress.