The chairman of Glencore has told a gathering of power executives in Paris that renewable power is not currently capable of replacing coal in industrialising countries.
The FT reports that Tony Hayward (right) told business and climate change conference that wealthier countries need to help industrialising nations replace old, more polluting coal-fired power plant technology with newer, cleaner system, adding that if that isn’t done, the world would never achieve the reduction in emissions needed.
Glencore is the world’s largest exporter of power station coal, and Hayward clashed with leaders at the conference from the renewables sector, who took issue with his assertion that it was simply “not possible” to remove coal from the energy mix in countries such as India.
“With the best will in the world, solar is not an answer to broad scale industrialisation,” he said, adding it was too intermittent to supply the steady, reliable power needed by an aluminium plant or a steel mill.
“Unless we can deal with this dilemma this debate goes nowhere,” he said.
Kerry Adler, chief executive of North American solar power group SkyPower replied: “Solar is the new world. You’ve got to get used to it.” Mr Adler added that as renewable power storage costs fell, companies like his could easily supply large amounts of cheap, reliable power in countries such as India.
José Manuel Entrecanales Domecq, chief executive of Spain’s Acciona group, concurred with Adler, saying it was “absolutely” possible for renewables to provide baseload electricity in emerging markets if electricity grids were properly integrated.
Hayward also expressed his disagreement with comments made by Statoil chief executive Eldar Saetre (left), who yesterday advocated that the first step should be switching from coal power to cleaner-burning gas, as a first port of call in gradually reducing emissions.
Hayward said this was not possible in countries such as India, where a government official had recently told him that gas cost at least three times as much as coal and was more complicated to secure.
“Unless what we deploy allows China and India to complete their industrialisation in a different way to the way we industrialised then we are simply shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.
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