Renewable energy will remain daydream without global cooperation

August 18th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS  

By Joydeep Gupta
Salzburg, Aug 18 (IANS) India needs to multiply its power output five times in the next 22 years. The current plan is to do this largely through thermal plants. But that will accelerate climate change, which can “gravely disrupt our economy”, as the prime minister said in his Independence Day speech. What’s the solution? It’s solar power, predicts India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) released June 30. But it costs about four times as much to produce a kilowatt of power from solar energy than from coal, as the prime minister’s envoy on climate change negotiations, Shyam Saran, pointed out.

The NAPCC is planning to focus on development of cheaper solar power. But this circle cannot really be squared without global “open” collaborative research, says Lewis Milford, president of the US-based Clean Energy Group.

Addressing delegates from around the world at a recent Salzburg Global Seminar session on Combating Climate Change at Local and Regional Levels: Sustainable Strategies, Renewable Energy, Milford called for new “distributed” and “open” innovation strategies to “accelerate climate technology innovation”.

He also wanted a “new and independent global institution to fund and use these 21st century networked strategies”.

Milford gave examples of successful global research and development collaboration to make his point - Linux, Proctor & Gamble, Innocentive and the Generation Challenge Programme.

“Distributed innovation (DI) harnesses rapid increases in knowledge and global expertise through advances in electronic communication,” he pointed out.

“DI would allow technology solutions for climate to come from unexpected sources - from industry, academic, government and technology sectors and the interstitial spaces between them.”

Right now, all new technology, policy or finance roles in the field of combating climate change, are put on existing institutions such as the World Bank or its Global Environment Facility or the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“But,” said Milford, “innovation theory suggests otherwise. We should consider a new independent entity linked to existing institutions with clear, new mission to do innovation.

“It should support a global virtual network of experts.

“It should coordinate technology-specific strategies to catalyse product innovation and commercial technology deployment.

“We should do this at national and regional levels too.”

Milford had a model for the kind of organisation he had in mind to accelerate climate-proofing technologies. “It should be like the Global Fund to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis that was established by many governments in 2002.”

That had funding from 43 countries plus the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The World Bank functioned as the financial trustee. It focussed on market failures in developing countries and put in money to plug those loopholes.

Milford said the fund “applies DI strategies to health and local capacity building. It is an independent non-profit organisation with a small board from developing countries, donors and NGOs, managed by a secretariat and advised by technical panels”.

That was the structure Milford wanted for focus on specific solar energy development technologies. According to him, “such a bottom-up collaborative strategy for change should include public and private financing mechanisms and support for innovation in emerging economies such as China and India.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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