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Power-Gen Europe: “Flexibility through Innovation”

Flexibility through innovation, the keyword for tomorrow’s energy. That’s the major outcome from 2011 Power- Gen Europe, the 3-day long gathering of the major enterprises of the energy world.

Flexibility, because no single surce of energy can actually be expected to meet all of the world’s energy demand. Innovation, because a large shares of power plant (in Europe, some 40 per cent) will be over 40 years old by the year 2020: their replacement is quickly becoming an imperative, and a new generation of power plants is badly needed in a matter of years.

First of all, though, why is this event taking place in Milan? The answer comes from Nigel Blackaby, Power-Gen conference director, the very host of this 3-day event.

“Milan has a lot to offer to visitors: culture, tourism, the lake region, the Alps, excellent food”, he says. “The most important factor of all, though – goes on Mr. Blackaby – is the business friendly environment you can breathe everywhere in the Milan area.”.

There is great attention to business requirements and to developments in all business-related issues. Energy is, by far, the most important of all: “Energy equals prosperity”, said Paul Browning, CEO & President, Thermal Products, GE Energy.

“Energy professionals live and work in a world of growing constraints: technologica, economical, political, social constraints. We need find the way to overcome them”.

A goal that no country can ever dream to achieve by itself: “Energy is an issue no country can handle alone”. It takes collaboration, working together, share ideas, technologies, or , as Mr. Browning put it “Partnership, collaboration, customer innovation”.

Innovation is a major keyword, expecially in Europe, where 40 per cent of power plants will be over 40 years old by 2020. “The aging of gethermal generation capacity in Europe requires investments in their renovation”, warned Gianfilippo Mancini, Director, Generation and Energy Management Division & Market Division for Enel, largest power utility in Italy”.

What does flexibility mean in this new scenario? “Flexibility – ansers Mr. Mancini – means we have to provide sources of energy to step in when the sun goes down and the wind dows not blow”. And that, in terms, means nuclear power, according to Giuseppe Zampini, CEO, Ansaldo Energy, Italy.

“Nuclear energy is coming back. It will take a few years, in the short term we will see a slow donw of the sector, due to the Fukushima accident and to the many countries who have halted or delayed their nuclear programs. In the long run, though, nuclear is coming back”.

Zampini places his attention on another issue: climate change. “This is moving from Science to Politics”, he claims. “A Canadina politician hs recently said that it does not really matter what science says about climate change, whether it is taking place or not: it is just an opportuity for innovation. This means climate change is no longer a scientific issue, rather a political one”.

And in this new vision of the problem, Europe as a whole is far behind. Countries in the Asia Pacific region are running fast, they are investing in their infrastructures and energy systems. Europe is lagging behind, in the very last position. “Europe must change its inertia driven public policies”, Mr. Zampini final words.

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