The comeback of nuclear energy and fossil fuels as well as hard times for solar energy and technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) were the highlights of a conference organised by the French Institute for International relations (IFRI) in Brussels yesterday (16 February) [more about the discussion on nuclear energy].
Philip Lowe, European Commission Director General for Energy, said that it was up to EU countries to decide their energy mix, but warned of various constraints.
"You probably read the Citibank report. European energy is uninvestable at the moment because there are too many uncertainties, too many different instances at national level deciding what should be done, no clear indication as to the level of subsidy to be allowed at various places," he said, naming the renewable and nuclear sector.
CCS 'an annoyance'
"Carbon capture and storage (CCS) sounds great. Unfortunately, our public doesn't like it, he said.
Derek Taylor, Regional Representative for Europe of the Global CCS Institute, admitted that this industry was "still waiting", because it implies huge costs "at a time when people are rather unwilling to invest" in what they perceive just as disposing waste.
At the cost of CO2 at only €8, CCS is "just an annoyance", he said, adding that in the absence of additional incentives, it was "impossible" to make a case for CCS.
Solar also in crisis
Arnaud Chaperon, Senior Vice President of Electricity and Renewable Energies at French energy giant Total, said solar power in Europe was undergoing a "major crisis", since China became a major competitor.
He said that this industry was "still in its infancy" and could be competitive in places such as California, the South of Italy or the Middle East, where it could be cost-effective without subsidies.
The solar industry is going to be "chaotic" in the next two or three years in Europe, but in the longer term, it could have a bright future, Chaperon said.