The voice of the mighty

à‚  Dr Jacob Klimstra
Managing Editor

Many delegates have great expectations when they enter the plenary room to listen to the keynote speeches that are often the summit of a conference. Conference managers normally do their utmost to get big names on the podium so that the crowd in the room can hear the hoped-for vision of the future. Journalists for technical magazines have their notebooks at the ready to scribble down wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth. Senior delegates in the room move anxiously on their chairs, hoping for an opportunity to ask the gurus on the podium a challenging question.

This is the typical pattern at major conferences. Delegates from the cogeneration and on-site power production sector eagerly hope for pronouncements that will confirm excellent prospects for their technologies.

Keynote speakers are generally captains of industry, well-known politicians, professors or high-level representatives of non-governmental organisations. They are often accompanied by a group of assistants, and leave the podium quickly after giving their talk. I cannot remember having ever seen such a speaker walking down the conference corridors on her or his own, or strolling without company on the exhibition floor. Keynote speakers must therefore belong to a special class of people and, I must admit, they often have huge responsibilities. No wonder many conference delegates hope that such speakers will finally reveal what the future will bring. Yet I also have to admit that I always have difficulty remembering what they actually said. Making notes during their speeches is the only way to retain their message.

At the POWER-GEN Europe conference this year, one keynote speaker revealed that there will always be a role for large power plants. Yet, one day earlier, the newspapers wrote that the G7 leaders had decided that, by 2050, a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be required. A large power plant has a life of at least 40 years. That keynote speaker must therefore have high confidence that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) will really be feasible and economic in the near future.

High-level speakers at the plenary panel advocated emission trading (ETS) as the Holy Grail for greenhouse gas emission reduction. However, expectations are that, with ETS, the price of CO2 will remain far below €60-€80 per tonne, meaning that CCS will not happen.

Another keynote speaker opined that large energy companies should reconsider their strategy each month, but I think such a thing is impossible for an owner of several power plants. This speaker also called for a realistic CO2 price, but did not reveal what that would be.

Fortunately, Marie Donnelly from the European Commission said wise words about the need for integration of heat demand and electricity demand. A substantial reduction in fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions will only be possible if the current ‘silo thinking’ stops. Heating and cooling systems offer excellent, economic temporary energy storage possibilities for balancing production and use. Hybrid cogeneration systems can therefore play an important role in optimising the exploitation of renewable energy sources.

Hopefully, governments’ policies will not only stimulate wind turbines and solar panels, but will also create proper boundary conditions for the indispensible cogeneration and on-site power technology that will enable the further integration of renewables.

PS: Visit www.cospp.com to see regular news updates, the current issue of the magazine in full, and an archive of articles from previous issues. It’s the same website address to sign-up for our weekly e-newsletter too.

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