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Plenary Panel Session at POWER-GEN Europe Highlights Industry’s Differing Opinions

Thursday, 11th June, Amsterdam – The Joint Plenary Panel Discussion took place yesterday at the POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe show and conference. The discussion encompassed the key show idea of Europe’s energy transition, with varying points of view from the industry itself represented in an at time heated debate.

The panel was hosted by the straight-talking, internationally-renowned journalist Stephen Sackur, and consisted of:

  • Stephan Singer, Director of Global Energy Policy, Climate Change and Energy initiative, WWF Belgium
  • Koen Noyens, Advisor, Environment & Sustainable Development Policy unit, Eurelectric
  • Mark Garnett, Vice President, European Region, Doosan Power Systems
  • Damian Wagner, Coordinator, Smart Cities, Fraunhofer IAO
  • Martin Giesen, Chief Executive Officer, Advanced Power

Martin Giesen says his company still foresees a role for traditional conventional power in Europe but as an insurer rather than a commodity.

Responding to a question from Stephen Sackur at the plenary panel discussion at POWER-GEN Europe on whether traditional utilities’ prospects were irreversibly negative in the light of the march of renewable power, While much of the industry is gearing up for a future where traditional utilities utterly transform into service providers, Giessen elaborated what suddenly looks an unorthodox vision.

“There is a requirement for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. That is the opportunity right now for gas-fired power, not for coal. There is nothing wrong with selling insurance. In the past, power was not sold as insurance but as a commodity. In the future, there will be a bigger insurance component but with good money in it. Will it require infrastructure in some places? Yes it will.”

Later in the discussion, the question was posed as to how power market would value reliability (in the context of renewable intermittency) differently and Giesen took the opportunity to reinforce the point.

“That was my point about insurance. If the lights go off there will be a capacity mechanism designed to protect that or minimise the risk of that. In Belgium and the UK in particular the risk of big outages are not acceptable, politicians won’t want to be voted out and mechanisms will be put in place –steps will be taken to prevent that from happening.”

Giessen was joined in the discussion by Stefan Singer of WWF, Koen Noyens of Eurelectric, Mark Garnett of Doosan Power Systems and Damian Wagner of Smart Cities Fraunhofer Group.

Singer earlier told the audience that conventional fossil-fuelled power’s days were over, but the path to more renewables would still face resistance.

“Fossil fuels will be phased out at different speeds, with gas as the most low carbon fuel, the latest. It would be naïve to think this will be a rapid process as most of the assets and investments still revolve around these interests and these guys won’t let them go easily. There might be role for CCS, but current prices for fossil fuels are prohibitive.”

Meanwhile Damian Wagner had a more positive and inclusive message in how utilities can adapt. He said the experience and knowledge contained within these organisations mean they have a real value in the evolving landscape.

“In terms of the conventional model and how that’s looking for new business cases – there is a big shift in the energy sector in providing energy services and making use of the knowledge and valuable data utilities possess will prove to be valuable to (smart) cities. I hope cities will work together with utilities a lot more.

That positivity also extended somewhat to the chances of carbon capture and storage becoming influential, and not just a failed experiment.

In response to moderator Sackur’s questioning as to whether CCS was commercially at the scale required to make typical gas and coal plants carbon neutral, an audience member from the industry said that a Sask Power executive had recently said that if their Boundary Dam project was repeated, costs would be 30 per cent lower this time round.

Mark Garnett of Doosan Power said the European energy sector was being damaged on an ongoing basis through failure to develop the grid.

“It’s around EUR40bn in losses a year through not interconnecting the grid properly.”

POWER-GEN Europe’s final day has plenty more excitement in store

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