1st and 2nd of October 2012 were pretty important dates for Postgraduate Programme Renewable Energy (PPRE) which I also graduated from some 4 years ago. The program organized an event that would bring together the alumni from the past 25 years. Venue was naturally University of Oldenburg, where it all began 25 years ago. PPRE organizers came up with a conference idea where valuable information could be exchanged and the big PPRE reunion could take place at the same time.

Conference theme and the title was Renewable Energy 2030 – Experts’ Visions. As the name suggested, experts from all around the world, some of which PPRE alumni, some others from elsewhere discussed which direction we are headed in order to meet the global renewable energy targets, and which technical and political challenges we need to face. Now that more than 10 days passed since the biggest PPRE reunion in 25 years ended, I decided to share my impressions of the event, especially for my PPRE/EUREC friends who couldn’t be with us here in Oldenburg.

I think it is pretty clear that how great it was to meet and catch up with my PPRE/EUREC classmates although we were only six from our batch. Furthermore, it was really special for graduates from multiple PPRE and EUREC batches, getting together and having the chance to get acquainted with other members of this huge family. It was pretty interesting to meet for the first time with people you only know from our famous mailing list discussions. In the end, it was a great opportunity for the PPRE family to get together and share experiences in the field of energy, chat about life and of course a PPRE/EUREC classic, learn about different practices in so many different countries…

As for the conference, the organizing committee had taken the approach of scheduling keynote speeches for the first day and the technical speeches, discussions and workshops for the second. Keynote speeches on the first day included some good talks from important speakers in their fields, including Joachim Luther, Daniel Kammen (although he couldn’t be present but joined via Skype video conference), Claudia Kemfert, Reinhard Loske, and Binu Parthan. Keynote speakers’ biographies are available on the conference webpage for those of you who’d like to read.

http://www.visions2030.uni-oldenburg.de/

I can say that all the keynote speeches concentrated on the lack of political will for taking action in order to tackle the climate change issue and to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix. Speakers mentioned issues regarding the financing of renewables which is pretty difficult in the shadow of the ever existing subsidies for fossil fuels. As expected by myself and probably many others, the probable battle which could be inevitable in the near future between natural gas and renewables was brought to the attention by multiple speakers. As nuclear phase outs are on the way for several energy hungry economies, I certainly believe that natural gas will be seen as an important alternative to fill the gap fast and without much hassle. However, this could be quite damaging for the plans to meet our carbon reduction targets. In addition, it is already quite clear that shale gas and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) would play an important role in gas and oil production and many argue that this technique is not good for the environmental.

Speakers told in their talks that a common European energy market is essential for the integration of renewables and therefore to increase their share among the EU member nations. This is mainly due to the fact that the cross border energy exchange has to play an important role in order to cope up with the variable nature of wind and solar power. Price of the storage technologies are still very high according to the keynote speakers and although essential for renewable energy integration, building up new large grid connected storage capacities are unlikely in the short term. It was mentioned that grid expansions and revisions are also quite crucial and transmission system operators of all countries should work together towards a solution in this area.

At the end of day 1, all keynote speakers were present for a panel discussion with the exception of Daniel Kammen who had earlier participated via video conference from Berkeley, California. Panel discussion focused on the financing and the market development of renewables. Claudia Kemfert blamed the Chinese companies and the Chinese administration with not playing a fair game in the solar PV business. She said the situation in China keeps affecting the solar PV markets elsewhere negatively. Unfortunately, the panel discussion fell short of a comprehensive Q&A session in the end. The panel administrator received like just 3 questions from the audience and ended the panel discussion. People were complaining about this unexpected situation later on at the cocktail party. Sometimes organizers do a great job putting in a huge effort but things might still go wrong during events like this. I can still say it was the only organizational problem we faced.

Second day of the conference consisted of parallel sessions on a number of topics including energy policy, wind energy, biomass energy and a special workshop on the “New Energielabor”. Yes, apparently there’s a new initiative to build up a new energy lab for PPRE/EUREC studies and there have been different approaches about how to proceed with the transition from the current 30 year old building to a high tech, brand new design. Alternatives include knocking down the old building for something totally new, keeping the old building and constructing something new on the side, or improving the existing “Energielabor” while keeping most of the current construction in place. I attended a presentation about these approaches and how the Jade Hochschule architecture students in Oldenburg could be involved in the architectural design of a possible new building. It was quite nice and informative. By the way, you can send your ideas about a new “Energielabor” to the “New Energielab Team” led by Hans Holtorf.

In the afternoon session, I attended talks by Hans Peter Waldl, Wolfgang Pfaffenberger, Santiago Sanchez and Dwipen Boruah in the energy policy and economics sessions. Dr. Waldl mentioned the importance of forecasting techniques for mitigating issues resulting from variable nature of renewables and pointed out the necessity for a better, centralized data transfer and availability from SCADA systems at every single renewable energy power plant in the future. Like the keynote speakers one day earlier, Prof. Pfaffenberger mentioned the need for a common European energy market for competitive renewables. Santiago Sanchez and Dwipen Boruah talked about ongoing projects in their home countries of Ecuador and India respectively. Mr. Sanchez explained the energy efficiency measures they’ve been taking in Ecuador in order to reduce the energy losses in both residential and industrial buildings in an energy market which relies highly on oil. Mr. Boruah meanwhile shared interesting results from the “Solar Cities” initiative in India where they’ve been studying the possibility of exploiting the country’s huge solar power potential at the highest possible rates in big Indian cities.

Besides the keynote speeches and oral presentations on both days, a poster exhibition ran in parallel during the event. Posters on various technical and political subjects ranging from energy storage to energy economics were presented not only by PPRE alumni but also other participating scientists. I should probably mention that all presentation slides, posters and papers will be made available on the conference web page later on. If interested, check out every once in a while.

I’d like to end my analysis and impressions article by sending my gratitude to the reunion/conference organizers. Such a nice event wouldn’t have been possible without their precious efforts. Happy 25th anniversary PPRE!

http://www.ppre.de/


Category: Energy

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