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Power poser

Meeting future energy needs requires new policy not new technology.

THERE IS no need for great technological leaps to combat climate change and no point developing them in a market where only the cheapest, dirtiest option survives.

This was the argument put by industry leaders at a climate change discussion organised by the ICE and the Royal Academy of Engineering last week.

Great engineers can come up with great plans for an environmentally friendly, renewable energy source. But without the right framework to support them, engineers say they won't get off the drawing board.

According to BP's energy and environment advisor Chris Mottershead, there will be $21 trillion (£10.6 trillion) of investment in energy infrastructure over the next 25 years.

He argued that the technology to solve the problem already exists but that the power industry lacks the economic incentives to invest in alternative energy.

But he says any old incentive won't do. He argues against environmental legislation that would constrain power companies by punishing those failing to cut emissions. Instead he said the government 'needs to encourage the alternative - its all about creating economic opportunity.

'The government needs to change the policy framework to encourage innovation rst and use constraint as a stick for those who slack.' The discussion was part of ICE's work with the Royal Academy of Engineering to inform the government on key engineering challenges facing society.

Adopting the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) proposition that human generated CO 2 leads to global warming, an increase in rain and a rise in sea level, the first panel discussion looked at how to cut emissions.

'To stop emissions from fossil fuels at a significant level by 2050 you need to have a new primary energy industry as big the current fossil fuel industry, ' said Mottershead.

His argument is that we should stop pollution from coal, oil and gas and use something else.

Using less energy is another alternative, said market development managing director Anthony White of investment group Climate Change Capital.

'What's crying out is that we must use less carbon energy - that means less energy.' 'To me the only way to succeed in doing that is to convince energy companies they can make as much money selling fewer units of electricity.' White argued that the way to achieve this is to revert back to the system Thomas Edison used for charging his clients - charging for a lit room by supplying the power and the light bulb.

By adopting this system for all energy uses White argued it would be in the energy company's best interest to use the most ef cient means.

However the present economic climate renders this brave idea impotent. Relatively low energy prices coupled with the high cost of low energy products, mean that pouring heat and power into a house is cheaper than installing energy efficiency measures.

The message from engineers is: efciency costs too much.

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