What can we expect from the Clean Energy Ministerial?

Solar power and energy efficiency could be big on the agenda at talks to be held in London this week by leading energy ministers from around the globe. The third Clean […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Solar power and energy efficiency could be big on the agenda at talks to be held in London this week by leading energy ministers from around the globe.

The third Clean Energy Ministerial is being hosted in London by Energy Secretary Ed Davey and his American counterpart, Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The talks are a chance for the UK to exert its influence and show it is one of the top dogs when it comes to clean energy, believe analysts.

“We’ve been a global leader on this policy area so it’s a good opportunity to continue that,” says James Close, Partner of Sustainability and Cleantech Services at Ernst & Young.

He told ELN: “It’s also an opportunity to influence other countries and what they’re thinking about.”

Although the UK has “fallen foul” of a drop in the cost of solar panels, with prices coming down more quickly than a lot of other technologies, solar is “clearly a big opportunity internationally”, he added.

With government budgets around the world still feeling the squeeze, cleantech “doesn’t have to be about increased costs”, stated Mr Close, which is why energy efficiency could also be a hot topic. “It has to be a really important part of the debate, looking at what’s coming out of the EU at the moment.”

Britain’s infant CCS sector could get a boost from the CEM, after taking a hit last year when its first project at Longannet was scrapped over cost fears. The £1 billion originally destined for it will now be shared between other projects.

Will CCS get a hearing at the talks? Mr Close believes working together on Carbon Capture and Storage would be “valuable”.

He said he would be surprised if there were any diplomatic incidents because the point of the talks is to find common ground.

Nevertheless, solar power could be bone of contention between China and the United States, given recent reports on their dispute about competition, with the States complaining Chinese firms are allegedly undercutting American firms with cheaper solar panels.

Surprisingly, South Korea could prove an unexpected expert on ‘smart’ technology. “It would be interesting to emulate what the Koreans are doing – they’ve put a huge amount of money into smart meters and in 2007-8 put 81% of an economic stimulus package of £2.3billion into its own Green Deal. They wanted to achieve 940,000 jobs with it,” he said.

Whether they managed or not, the ambition it shows suggests countries are serious about using cleantech to push forward economic growth.