European Affairs

The plan calls for specific actions such as enhancing rural electrification, increasing the use of renewable sources of energy, producing cleaner liquid fuels and improving energy efficiency through intensified regional and international cooperation.We believe that our efforts to increase access to energy services must be compatible with environmental stewardship. Developing and deploying new technologies to provide abundant sources of cleaner energy over the coming generation is a fundamental element of our policies. Partnerships are also essential. We are working not only with other governments, but with businesses, civil society, academia, multilateral development banks and the private sector at large. Partnership with Europe, meaning not only the European Union, but also individual member states, is crucial. The 25- nation European Union and the United States account for almost 40 percent of the world's economic activity, and this great wealth allows us to invest in research into diverse energy sources. Moreover, our resources are based on a robust private sector, which has the ability to bring these various technologies to the market quickly.

Together, we are making great strides in increasing energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), which aims to expand the global market for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, is an excellent example of the kind of public-private partnership we want to promote.

In May 2004, the UK joined the Efficient Energy for Sustainable Development Partnership program, one of the key elements of the U.S. Clean Energy Initiative stemming from the Johannesburg summit. Under the agreement, the UK and the United States are working together to leverage human and financial resources to build new markets for renewable energy and increase energy efficiency.

The United States is also working on a range of initiatives, together with a number of European countries, to implement the Global Village Energy Partnership. This is a major public-private partnership that was launched in Johannesburg to focus on increased access to modern energy services around the world, particularly in the areas of developing countries that are most in need. We have contributed significantly to these kinds of joint efforts. For example,

President Bush's 2005 budget calls for $4.1 billion in tax incentives through 2009, which are designed to encourage the use of cleaner and more energy efficient technologies, such as hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, combined heat and power systems and other alternative energy sources.

We are also pursuing a robust program to develop market competitive renewable energy sources. In fact, the United States the largest producer and consumer of energy from renewable sources. If we continue to lower the costs through research and development, renewable energy sources will be competitive with any other type of energy. In 2004, the Department of Energy spent nearly $350 million on renewable energy research, development, demonstration, deployment and related activities. The budget for fiscal year 2005 seeks nearly $375 million to continue these kinds of activities. The results so far have been significant. Since 1990, the cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen by a factor of 16, from 80 cents per kilowatt hour to 5 cents per kilowatt hour. By 2012, we expect to bring the price down to 3 cents per kilowatt hour. Also since 1980, the cost of a grid-connected residential solar system has fallen by a factor of eight, from $2 per kilowatt hour to 25 cents per kilowatt hour. By 2020, we expect to bring the price down to 6 cents per kilo-watt hour. This is a crucial development, because as prices for these technologies continue to fall, their use will almost certainly rise. In addition to increasing energy supplies and limiting consumption of non-renewable resources, renewable sources can also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Further steps will also be necessary, and we are working very aggressively with others to develop clean energy technologies.

We are committed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the climate system. Science tells us that, while we can make some progress, we cannot achieve this shared goal with existing technologies. We are accordingly working with others, especially with a number of European countries, to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies. One key initiative in this area is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum that we launched in June 2003.We know that coal is and will continue to be an important source of affordable energy for both developed and developing countries. The challenge is to identify ways to burn coal cleanly, and through the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum countries are looking at ways to reduce costs and to improve the technology for capturing carbon and storing it below ground before it enters the atmosphere. The United States has many partners in this initiative, including not only the European Union and a number of European countries, such as France, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom, but also developing countries, such as India and China.

Norway, for instance, has an offshore platform (Sleipner West Field) in the North Sea that captures carbon dioxide generated during the extraction of natural gas that would be otherwise escape into the atmosphere and redeposits it underground. Sleipner is part of a broader initiative called the Storage in Saline Aquifers Project, which is backed by a number of energy companies from Europe and North America, with research and technology provided by both governments and private entities.

Another important project is the FutureGen power plant, sponsored by the United States, international partners, and the private sector. This is a $1 billion coal-based zero emissions electricity and hydrogen power plant that employs carbon capture and storage technologies such as those being developed through the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.

We are working with some 15 countries and the European Commission on a visionary partnership to create a hydrogen economy, which is vital to our longterm energy policies. The International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy is based on the premise that, by working together to share best practices and to establish codes and standards, we can make the commercial use of hydrogen power feasible in our lifetimes. Partnerships between North America and Europe will be critical in addressing the fundamental synergy between energy and the environment. And on many of these issues, Europe and the United States share a common agenda, namely working to ensure that all people have access to clean and abundant sources of energy, while striving, at the same time, to conserve our environment for future generations. We need to work together on these important initiatives related to hydrogen, renewable energy, nuclear energy and other emerging technologies. We also need to ensure that we are taking into account the important needs of both developed and developing countries as we pursue these near term and longer term goals.


Paula Dobriansky is U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs. She is responsible for a broad range of foreign policy issues, including democracy, human rights, labor, counter-narcotics and law enforcement, refugee and humanitarian relief and environmental/scientific issues. She was previously Senior Vice President and Director of the Washington Office of the Council on Foreign Relations.

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number V, Issue number III in the Fall of 2004.