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10 October 2011

Swiss Welcome At EFEF 2011

Posted October 10, 2011

Sometimes it’s best to start with the end, and in the case of the European Future Energy Forum in Geneva, the end of the day began with some Alpine greatest hits and a large dollop of melted cheese. 

A traditional band complete with cowbells, accordeon, yodelling singer and one very large horn welcomed the delegates, who feasted on a great selection of melted cheese, cured meats and chilled wine. It was a perfect chance to recharge the batteries for those who had exhausted all their energy ‘talking energy’.

The day began with a plenary session featuring speakers from industry and civil society. Amongst the most persuasive personalities on the panel was Morten Albaek, Senior Vice President of Group Marketing and Customer Insight at Vestas Wind Systems, whe argued that ‘everyone in the world is born sensible’ and that we all understand that the ’sensible’ thing to do is to invest in renewable and sustainable energy.

I later asked him why it was that Danish politicians seemed to accept the sustainable energy argument more freely than many of their counterparts in other parts of Europe, and he replied that developing clean energy systems was deeply anchored in Danish politics, and that the voters genuinely considered it to be an important issue in their lives.

Given that the question of how to engage the general public in the energy debate was one of the overriding themes of this first debate session, it seems that the Danes once again probably have a few things to teach the rest of us about being good citizens of planet earth.



The Masdar stand dominates the entrance to the exhibition hall, and although it was great to be able to meet some of the people involved in the project and to see some of the plans that are being put into place, it certainly seems to me that the whole project is taking a great deal of time to get off the ground, and that for the moment there are a lot more fancy videos and nice interactive 3D maps than real-world sites that we journalists could hope to visit and film. Of course it’s a big initiative, and it will take time to complete, but I can’t help thinking that Masdar have done such a good job of publicising their project so far that the reality of what will be achieved may be something of a let down once we finally get to see it finished in the flesh.

In this picture to the right you can see the Swiss President Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey and Solar plane innovator Bertrand Piccard inspecing the Masdar plans, complete with a media scrum and a few dozen dignitaries.

Wandering around the stalls it was a welcome surprise to see so many well advanced solar thermal devices on display. The Swiss-Italian start-up TVP Solar made a show of unveiling their latest module, a one square metre panel with the intended market being industrial sized cooling applications using absorption chillers. I spent a while talking to CEO Piero Abbate, and he’s certainly convinced that the market for solar thermal chilling is about to explode, especially if the price is as low as he hopes to make it.

Nearby the chatty boffins of SRB Energy Research were also promoting their solar thermal devices, using reflective technology rather than self-contained units like TVP, but with the same aim getting an early foothold in a market which for all intents and purposes doesn’t really exist yet, but is expected to boom in the coming decade.



Comment:Visions - Debating the Energy Challenge