The worldwide economic crisis was precipitated in part by the massive speculative fluctuations in international energy and commodity markets.
“We need to radically rethink the global mechanisms for our energy supply systems to avoid suffocating the incipient, desperately needed economic upturn,” declared Professor Klaus Töpfer, chairperson of the World Energy Dialogue. “There is no alternative to a fundamental realignment of our energy systems from an economic and ecological point of view.”
While broad-based econ-omic stimulus packages are being implemented to stem the tide of unemployment and social dislocation, the world economic downturn is taking place in the midst of a comprehensive crisis of ecological stability.
Transnational consultation and collaboration are more urgently required than ever. Held at the world’s leading technology exhibition, in Han- over, the World Energy Dial-ogue offered a unique platform for this type of international networking. “We need to master the financial and econ-omic crisis in such a way that we can assure the sustained success of climate policy,” commented Töpfer, adding that it was a matter of “killing two crises with one stone”.
The massive investment packages designed to create new jobs must be set up so they can contribute to long-needed changes in the supply and demand structures currently governing energy markets.
The world’s key energy and technology players are stepping up their activities to secure a role in future growth markets. While Germany remains a leader in the development and manufacture of highly efficient technologies, the focus of investment in renewable-energy technology may well shift from Europe to the US and China in the not-too-distant future, with the emerging economic powerhouses of Brazil and India not far behind.
The negative economic impact of an unresolved reli-ance on fossil fuels is becoming increasingly clear. “The stronger the global demand for oil becomes as the result of an economic upturn in 2010 – above all, in the US, China and India – the sooner we may hit a bottleneck and experience a subsequent stifling of world economic growth,” declared Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in Paris. According to IEA estimates, the world will need to invest $26-trillion in the modernisa-tion of its energy infrastructure by 2030. Two-thirds of this sum will need to go to emerging economies. According to Tanaka, an additional $9-trillion will be required for the sustained maintenance of the desired carbon dioxide emission levels.
In Germany alone, the number of employees in the renewable-energy sector grew by almost 30 000 to reach a total of some 280 000 in 2008. Renewable-energy technologies are achieving out-standing results for employment and climate protection.
“The wind energy industry will remain one of the strongest growth sectors over the next few years, owing to the fact that the worldwide demand for energy will continue to go up and, along with it, the demand for efficient, environment-friendly energy technologies,” commented Hermann Albers, president of the German Wind Energy Association.
“Today, more than 400 000 people are already employed in the wind energy sector,” he added.
According to German Energy Agency MD Stephan Kohler, the construction of new coal- and natural-gas-fired power stations represents only part of the measures that are urgently required in Germany today. “The construction of new coal- and natural-gas-fuelled power plants is part of an overall energy strategy which includes the extension of national grid distribution lines by at least 850 km so that wind energy from the north can be transported to the consumer centres in the south.
“It also includes the employ-ment of power storage systems, optimal connections between decentralised and centralised power generation equipment and the intelligent coupling of supply with demand. In short, we require intelligent systems which are capable of guaran-teeing a safe, climate-friendly and economical energy mix of energy efficiency, fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy.”