Cheap Energy Leads To Waste, Warns Green Guru


The only way to curb emissions is to put up energy prices, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told an HP event

A sustainable approach to energy use can only be driven by higher prices Germany’s former Foreign Minister has warned a conference run by Hewlett-Packard.

Businesses and consumers will not begin to use energy in a sustainable way until higher costs force them to take a more responsible approach, according to Joschka Fischer, a consultant with the Albright Group and a senior figure in Germany’s Green Party.

Speaking at computer maker HP’s Executive Energy Conference 2009 in Budapest this week, Fischer told an audience of energy executives that market economics would only be able to regulate the sustainable use of energy if the price reflects the true costs of power production and the impacts of climate change.


“We are still wasting energy. Why are we doing that? Because it is cheap,” said Fischer. “The price is not enough to make us act in a sustainable way.”

Fischer said one of the ways to create more realistic pricing for energy was to establish European-wide energy markets. “Europe has managed to create common markets for goods and services but still sticks to the illusion of natural energy markets,” he said.

The former vice-chancellor and foreign minister also pointed to the growing world population as an important factor in shaping the approach of developed nations to the sustainable use of energy and resources. “I believe the only way to produce the energy that is needed for decent living conditions of nine billion people must be based on sustainable energy production,” said Fischer.

Current approaches to automotive and power production are very inefficient said Fischer and the future developments must improve on existing technology. “The transformation from an unsustainable to a sustainable economy is a must not a trend,” he said. “Nuclear power plants are a maximum of 30 percent efficient, coal plants 50 percent, gas production 60 percent, and cars 20 percent efficient with combustion engines.”

Fischer went on to recount a recent meeting with the Chinese government in which the country’s adoption of electric cars was discussed. He said that the Chinese authorities are keen to push the roll-out of sustainable electric vehicles in major cities to not only reduce carbon emissions and other forms of pollution but to make use of the car’s batteries as possible storage devices for energy produced from renewable sources such as wind. “The big question is how to store wind energy,” he said.

Companies and nations that don’t embrace new technologies – such as electric car development – could face being left with obsolete devices. “Don’t forget the typewriter. Most companies moved up to the electric typewriter but many missed the step to the computer,” he said.

The two day HP conference held in the Hungarian capital focused on the IT company’s push to provide services and technology to energy companies and utilities. On Monday, the company announced a security assessment service for utility companies planning smart grid deployments.

In the UK, companies have complained that new rules around carbon credits are removing incentives for companies to generate their own energy, with BT threatening to pull the plug on a 250MW wind energy project.