by Staff Writers
Geneva, Switzerland (UPI) Aug 26, 2011
Switzerland's status as "cleantech" industry leader is coming under the microscope as the country prepares to host a major forum on Europe's green energy future.
The 2011 forum, set for Oct. 10-12 in Geneva, will bring together hundreds of European government officials, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and energy company executives to explore every aspect of the worldwide green technology business.
The organizers, including the Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar, say the idea is to "bridge the gap" to making green energy technologies affordable and profitable.
Last year's conference in London drew British Prime Minister David Cameron, Energy Minister Chris Huhne and London Mayor Boris Johnson, and the organizers say they chose Geneva as the host site this time partly because of Switzerland's cleantech industry, which has garnered praise around the world as being one of the most advanced.
Cleantech, they say, has becomes a fast-growing industry in Switzerland, with 160,000 workers -- 4.5 percent of the country's total employment -- already active in it.
Also coming in for praise were Swiss banks, including Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch and Pictet et Cie, which "were among the first banks to offer socially responsible investment funds."
Switzerland's green energy future, however, has become the subject of contentious debate within the country since the government in May decided to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The government's move came during a wave of anti-nuclear protests after the Japanese earthquake.
Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said the country would instead ramp up its investments new hydroelectric plants as well as push the development of renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power to meet the energy demand -- 40 percent of which is supplied by nuclear power.
"We want to send a clear signal to the business elite, the population and to investors," Leuthard said. "It won't be easy but we are convinced that this is the right step and that it will pay off in the long term."
The reaction from the Swiss power industry, however, was strongly negative and illustrated the gulf between the goals of the cleantech sector and that of the incumbent power industry.
"The government decision will become a problem as far as supply security is concerned," Axpo Chief Executive Officer Heinz Karrer told The Wall Street Journal, predicting Switzerland would become dependent on expensive imported power and calling for a national referendum on the issue.
In a move to bolster its case, the Swiss Business Federation, or Economiesuisse, this month released a study claiming the country's cleantech industry is actually lagging behind that of other countries, the Swiss online news portal Swissinfo.ch reported.
The study reportedly looked at the number of patents awarded to small companies in the industry versus the number granted to the large multinational firms that have headquarters in Switzerland and found the latter to be far more active in the cleantech patent field than the former.
Also, it contended, the rate of growth in cleantech patent awards is slower in Switzerland than the worldwide average -- evidence, it said, that government subsidies for the cleantech industry and the imposition of tough environmental policies on big employers are misguided.
But Swiss Cleantech Association President Nick Beglinger told Swisswinfo.ch using patents as a measuring stick is flawed.
"Smaller enterprises drive the sector and the entire Swiss economy but they cannot afford to file that many patents," he said. "Most cleantech innovation derives not from inventing new technologies but from adapting existing systems to make them more efficient."
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Quake-prone Japan looks at geothermal energy
Hachimantai, Japan (AFP) Aug 26, 2011
The forces that make Japan one of the world's most quake-prone and volcanic countries, and sparked a nuclear disaster, could become part of its long-term energy solution, experts say. Steam and hot water billow and gush from deep below the ground at Japan's tens of thousands of famed hot springs and could be harnessed to drive turbines that generate electricity in a clean, safe and stable wa ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|