Sunday, May 14, 2006

Annan Calls for 'New Approaches' to Energy

From Renewable Energy Access, an overview of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plenary speech to the three-day High-Level Segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York:
"We need a revolution in energy efficiency," [said Annan]. "Conventional power stations waste 65 percent of the energy they generate. We must capture and use that excess heat, and make greater use of hybrid vehicles and other energy-efficient technologies."

He also called for cutting the pollution generated by fossil fuels, for example, through the use of so-called "clean coal," and pointed out that the high cost of oil imposes economic burdens on some poor countries while contributing to climate change.

The poor are particularly vulnerable to climate change and will need help from the global community to adapt to its impact, Mr. Annan added.

Meanwhile, 1.6 billion people live with no electricity at all and have to rely on wood, dung and agricultural wastes, which have made indoor air pollution one of the world's top 10 causes of mortality or premature death, he said. Added to that is the immense opportunity cost of the many hours that people, mainly women, spend foraging for wood.

"We need new approaches. We need to scale up investment in mature renewables, such as wind, hydro and solar energy. And we need to intensify research and development into promising longer-term sources such as tidal energy, ocean thermal conversion, hydrogen and fuel cells."
Annan's focus of the connection between global energy development and the state of the world's poor is a welcome message from a world leader of his status -- we can't repeat this idea enough. At the same time, I have to wonder if the solutions Annan proposes, which mainly involve large centralized power production, are the right approach. Given the state of so much of the developing world, I'd think that a distributed generation approach would bring electricity to the poor much more quickly. Why not focus on small-scale wind and solar development, and build a grid from the ground up, rather than focusing on technologies like "clean coal" (which I'm still very suspicious of) or hydroelectric developments? Why not use Bangladesh's recent successful forays into solar power as a model, instead of the Western concept of big power stations? Again, appropriate technology is key here: there's no need to keep developed regions of the globe "in the dark" while we spend the time and money developing massive energy production facilities...

Via Hugg (which has been officially launched and is "full steam ahead...").

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