G8 energy security plan relies on oil, nuclear and renewables

Posted: 16 July 2006

"The need to protect the environment and to tackle climate change" is front and center in the Global Energy Security statement jointly issued today by the world's eight largest industrial nations, the G8, meeting here for their annual summit.

"Ensuring sufficient, reliable and environmentally responsible supplies of energy at prices reflecting market fundamentals is a challenge for our countries and for mankind as a whole," the leaders said.

The United States' newest nuclear reactor is Watts Bar 1 - 10 miles south of Spring City, Tennessee. Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The United States' newest nuclear reactor is Watts Bar 1 - 10 miles south of Spring City, Tennessee. Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The United States' newest nuclear reactor is Watts Bar 1 located 10 miles south of Spring City, Tennessee.© Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Among the "serious and linked challenges" they face, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia the United Kingdom and the United States, joined by the European Union, put high and volatile oil prices and increasing dependence on petroleum imports at the top of the list.

They also are confronting a growing demand for energy - estimated to rise by more than 50 per cent by the year 2030. The leaders predict that by 2030 approximately 80 per cent of world energy demand will still be met by fossil fuels, which they acknowledge are limited resources.

The leaders anticipate having to make "enormous investment requirements along the entire energy chain" and to deal with "the vulnerability of the critical energy infrastructure" in the face of "political instability, natural disasters and other threats."

To meet these challenges, the G8 leaders called for "strengthened partnership between all stakeholders to enhance global energy security."

Market-based responses are the most effective way to avoid potentially disruptive actions affecting energy sources, supplies and transit, the leaders said. "We agree that development of transparent, efficient and competitive global energy markets is the best way to achieve our objectives on this score," they declared.

Out of the grid

The G8 leaders pledged to improve sustainable access to fuels for the 2.4 billion people and to electricity for the 1.6 billion people currently without such access in developing countries. "They cannot be forgotten or marginalized," the leaders said.

It will require "trillions of US dollars in investment through the entire energy chain by 2030," to ensure an adequate global energy supply, "a substantial share of which will be needed by developing countries," the G8 leaders said.

Recognizing that the private sector will supply the majority of that investment capital, the G8 leaders pledged to "create and maintain the conditions to attract these funds into the energy sector through competitive, open, equitable and transparent markets."

The 55 section St Petersburg Plan of Action for Global Energy Security includes pledges for enhancing energy efficiency and energy saving, and for addressing climate change and sustainable development.

Global warming challenge

To combat global warming the G8 leaders said they would encourage the development of "zero emission power plants" and clean coal technologies.

They also will support carbon sequestration projects to remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where it is raising the planetary temperature and place it in the ocean or deep underground.

Natural gas should be used and not flared off into the atmosphere, the leaders said. They stated support for the the efforts of Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership and Methane-to-Markets Partnership to implement projects on the production of marketable methane from landfills, agriculture waste and coal-bed methane, particularly in developing countries.

Hydrogen is viewed as the fuel of the future for the longer term. "We support the transition to the hydrogen economy," the leaders stated, "including in the framework of the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy. A critical part of this effort is to develop common international standards in the field of commercial development of hydrogen power, infrastructure and security requirements."

Looking even farther into the future, the G8 leaders mentioned support for construction of advanced electricity networks, superconductivity, nanotechnology, including nanobiotech.

They supported nuclear fusion research by mentioning the recent initialing ITER agreement by the participating countries and take this opportunity to encourage R&D programs on fusion energy within its framework. Many of the G8 countries are partners in the ITER nuclear fusion demonstration project now being built in France.

Nuclear power

Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin promised a meeting of nongovernmental organizations that he would present their objection to any further development of nuclear power to the other G8 leaders, this viewpoint did not emerge in the G8's joint energy statement.

Instead, the G8 statement reaffirms the objective set out in the 2004 G8 Action Plan on Non-Proliferation "to allow reliable access of all countries to nuclear energy on a competitive basis, consistent with non-proliferation commitment and standards."

Building on that plan, the leaders stated today, "we intend to make additional joint efforts to ensure reliable access to low enriched uranium for power reactor fuel and spent fuel recycling, including, as appropriate, through a multilateral mechanisms provided that the countries adhere to all relevant international non-proliferation commitments and comply with their obligations."

In this respect, we take note of recent potentially complementary initiatives put forward in the IAEA framework regarding multilateral fuel supply assurances, as well as the proposals made by Russia and the US, aimed at further development of peaceful nuclear energy, in a manner that promotes proliferation resistance of the nuclear fuel cycle, including preventing the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies.

This section refers to the agreement signed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and President George W. Bush Saturday in a bilateral meeting ahead of the summit. The two presidents agreed to control the spread of uranium enrichment by creating one central enrichment system that will supply client countries with fuel for nuclear power plants.

The plan is known as the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

"We believe that this will be possible in the case of the creation of a system of international enrichment centered into a single network, and of course, under strict control on the part of the IAEA," Putin said Saturday. Renewables drive

Wind farm at sunset, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Warren Gretz/NREL
Wind farm at sunset, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Warren Gretz/NREL
Wind farm at sunset, Palm Springs, California© Warren Gretz/NREL
Renewable energy received continued G8 support, although no new measures were announced. This year, the G8 leaders relied on last year's statement on climate change, which British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a central concern of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. It was the first time that G8 leaders reached an agreement on the role of human activity in global warming and the need for urgent action. This year, they said, "A large-scale use of renewable energy will make a significant contribution to long-term energy supply without adverse impact on climate. The renewable solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal energy resources are becoming increasingly cost competitive with conventional fuels, and a wide variety of current applications are already cost-effective."

They agreed to support the ongoing work of existing renewable energy networks and partnerships, and mentioned enhancing international cooperation in using the potential of biomass, and advanced sustainable forest management practices.

The St Petersburg Plan of Action links efforts to combat climate change with "addressing deforestation and forest degradation, the trade in illegally harvested timber and forest fires."

"We note that deforestation has a significant impact on climate change - resulting, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in an actual 25 per cent increase in yearly greenhouse gas emissions," the leaders said.

"We reaffirm the importance of tackling illegal logging and agree to take further action, with each country taking steps where it can contribute most effectively. This should include the promotion of sustainable forest management and the incorporation of appropriate measures to address illegal logging in relevant national policies of both timber-producing and consuming countries," they said.

All the G8 leaders except the United States are committed to the Kyoto Protocol that sets binding targets for reduction of six greenhouse gases. The energy statement says, "Those of us committed to making the Kyoto Protocol a success underline the importance we attach to it."

All the G8 leaders reaffirmed the importance of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and said they look forward to its 2007 report.

The next step is a ministerial meeting in Mexico in October 2006, where the G8 countries "will continue to identify opportunities for greater collaboration to tackle climate change, while pursuing energy security and sustainable development through deployment of cleaner, more efficient and low-carbon energy technologies, finance and market mechanisms, including, as appropriate, Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, emissions trade, and adaptation," the leaders stated.

The Clean Development Mechanism, Joint Implementation, and emissions trading are all authorized under the Kyoto Protocol as ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

'Backward proposals'

Friends of the Earth International said G8 plans to address global energy security are "dirty, dangerous and will continue to fuel climate change."

Reacting to an early draft of the G8 Plan of Action, the environmental organization said world leaders have forgotten last year's G8 efforts in Gleneagles to tackle climate change.

Despite G8 pledges to take action against climate change, the plan includes "backwards" proposals for major investment in finding new oil and gas reserves, for increased oil refining capacity and for greater reliance on nuclear power.

Friends of the Earth International climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said, "Last year, heads of state at the G8 summit in Gleneagles recognized the urgent need for decisive action against climate change whilst "eradicating energy poverty" around the world. But this action plan is a backward step which will mean a return to dinosaur-like dependence of fossil fuels.

"If the world's richest countries are serious about tackling climate change and energy security, they must look to the solutions and heavily invest in energy efficiency and the clean, renewable energies," said Pearce.

Friends of the Earth is particularly concerned by recent attempts to revive the nuclear industry despite what the group calls its economic failures over the past 50 years.

Friends of the Earth Europe climate campaigner Jan Kowalzig said, "It is unbelievable to see how our leaders are holding the world in the grip of dirty energy, feeding our addiction to oil instead of overcoming our dependence on fossil fuels."

"At a time of high oil and gas prices, political instability in producer countries, the threat of climate change and rising mountains of nuclear waste, common sense dictates cutting energy waste and investing in renewable energies like solar and wind," he said. "This will ensure a long-term sustainable energy supply."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2006. All Rights Reserved.