Co-operation crucial at trying time for Europe’s power generation industry

Paul Boughton

POWER-GEN Europe 2013 Conference and Exhibition and its co-located show Renewable Energy World Europe opened today as industry thought leaders delivered keynote speeches to a packed auditorium in the heart of Vienna’s business district.

Five keynote speakers took to the lectern to provide a complete picture of the industry with opinions from senior politicians, energy providers, and engineers.

Nigel Blackaby, PennWell’s International Director of Conferences, opened proceedings by welcoming all attendees and setting the scene for the show. Summarising the current state of the industry, he warned of a lack of optimism in the market as investment continues to decline, but made it clear that the industry as a whole is united in driving towards Europe’s decarbonisation target. Integration will be the key to achieving this target, he concluded.

Next to speak was Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Federal Minister, Economy, Family and Youth, who started by reflecting on how the recent flooding in Austria has reinforced the vital importance of international co-operation, and how this is especially true for the energy industry. He moved on to discuss the significance of diversification and flexibility, and placed special emphasis on shale gas, citing the enormous impact the energy source has had in North America and its potential in China’s energy market.

A representative from sponsor nation Turkey followed, with Hasan Murcat Mercan, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, echoing Mr Mitterlehner’s call for co-operation across Europe. No country in the world is energy independent, he said, before stating that globalisation has transformed the energy market forever. With international demand for energy set to increase by a third by 2035, the impact will be felt by all European nations, he warned. He also encouraged the EU to be open minded about entering into relations with non-EU countries, as many have a lot to offer.

Russia’s Yury Sentyurin, State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, was next, and opened his keynote by summarising Russia’s significant achievements over the last year in the field of power generation. He outlined how Russia had addressed its increased energy demand by generating record beating megawatts from coal and oil. However, he also highlighted the challenges that Russia still faces, including volatility in the market, the need for more efficient electrical generation plants, and the wider lack of investment across the industry.

Next to the stage was Marc Hall, Director of Energy at Wiener Stadtwerke, Austria. As a voice from the business world, Hall highlighted Austria’s green credentials, and how energy from renewable sources makes up 66 per cent of the energy mix in Austria. Referencing the show’s central theme of ´Keeping Europe’s Power Flowing´, he also discussed the need to develop technology that can save power ´while the lights are on´. Improving the efficiency of existing power generating technologies, and investing in innovative new solutions such as energy storage and thermal generation, would be essential to enabling this, he said. Hall also called for a workable political environment that encourages competition in the market and engenders innovation.

The final speaker, Philippe Cochet, President of Alstom Thermal Power and Executive Vice President, Alstom France, agreed with Hall’s sentiments, and pointed out that decisions taken by policy makers effectively ‘tied his hands’ as far as power plant construction is concerned. He called for a long term European power generation strategy looking beyond 2020 targets and allowing for the construction of plants and development of technologies that can be sustainable up to 2050. Stating that the EU was currently at a cross roads, he also called for each country to develop a balanced portfolio across all energy sources.

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