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Energy Security in the Third Millennium:
Scientific and Technological Issues
Villa Olmo, Como (Italy), 14-16 May, 1998

Forum of the UNESCO International School of Science for Peace

Conclusions and Recommendations


Discussion    Back to top

Energy is an essential factor of economic development. Although reserves of fossil fuels are not yet approaching physical exhaustion and energy prices remain low on the international market, it is unduly optimistic to assume that energy crises will not occur in the future. The rapid growth of energy demand, especially in the developing countries, is likely to lead to new tensions in the market unless appropriate preventive measures are taken. As proven by history, energy is a major cause of potential conflicts. Preventing crises by ensuring energy security is an important contribution to world peace.

At the same time, preoccupation as to the environmental and climatic effects deriving from the increased use of fossil fuels is mounting. Although much remains to be explored and proven as concerns climate change, there is enough evidence to justify a preventive action, especially as such action also meets other objectives, such as the reduction of local and regional environmental effects and the conservation of finite, non-renewable resources.

Sustainable energy schemes meet the objectives of both energy security and environmental protection. They are based on increased efficiency in all chains of energy use, especially at final consumption, in the utilisation of renewables. Sustainable energy is essential to support development and to supply modern energy services to the two billion inhabitants of rural areas who, until now, have had no access to commercial energy. In this connection, the availability of energy is also a powerful motor of social promotion. The shift toward more sustainable energy cycles in all countries, for different applications, in urban as well as in rural contexts, has been advocated by the governments of most countries and by public opinion.

Improved and new technologies are needed to meet growing demand and environmental challenges. This requires an increased effort in research and development (R&D). Unfortunately, investment in energy research has been decreasing in both the public and private sectors; medium- and long-term programmes have been particularly affected.

Together with technologies, policy instruments are needed in order to implement and diffuse sustainable energy schemes. Such policies must make use of market forces to optimize the allocation of resources, but the market is not sufficient to bring about sustainable development unless long-term signals are introduced to correct its limited vision. This is a task for governments. Innovation in energy policy instruments to correct market forces is just as important as technological innovation. Market ‘pull’ and technology ‘push’ are the prerequisites for the proper-time deployment of new technological options.

International cooperation is essential for bringing about this transition. The instruments being set up within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – emission trading, joint implementation, clean development mechanism – may be very useful for bringing about the desired change in energy paradigm, provided they are implemented in a way apt to stimulate the transfer and large-scale deployment of the most efficient and effective technologies with high environmental performance.

The Forum on Energy Security for the Third Millennium, organized in Como, Italy, by Landau Network–Centro Volta, the Russian Centre for Energy Policy, UNESCO Venice Office, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ENEA (Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l’Energia e L’Ambiente – Organization for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment) examined various technical aspects connected with this problematique. It underlined that satisfactory progress was being achieved with emerging technologies of the highest interest, such as fuel cells for both stationary and transport applications; renewable energy technology and biofuels; high efficiency end-use equipment and appliances, bioarchitecture technologies in building, etc. The satisfactory progress of the World Solar Programme, a process initiated by UNESCO, was recognized. Perspectives for safer, and also smaller, nuclear systems were also presented, particularly for the needs of developing countries.

The Forum also examined the particular problems of two regions of critical importance for the future energy scenarios: developing countries and economies in transition. For developing countries it was emphasized that energy projects by donor and lending agencies, until now concentrated on large-scale, supply-side traditional plants or transmission lines, should give priority to demand-side interventions and to distributed energy generation, in particular by renewable sources. It was also stressed that the direct involvement of the local authorities and of private business was a prerequisite for success and that the creation of the right conditions was essential, including removal of incentives to traditional energy, capacity building for installation, maintenance and marketing, updating of norms, setting up of local institutions, etc.

For countries in transition, the great potential for improvement in energy efficiency should be considered as a means of enhancing the energy security at the regional and global levels, of improving the national economy and protecting the environment. The cost-effective part of energy efficiency should be kept in mind when allocating priorities in the no-regret investments for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Recommendations    Back to top

The Forum expressed the following recommendations: 

  • Governments and institutions should invest more in sustainable energy R&D and encourage the private sector to do the same. Support for long-term energy R&D does not necessarily imply equal support for all technologies. Periodic assessments of resources allocation and the effectiveness of R&D strategies are required.
  • R&D efforts could be made more effective by enhanced international cooperation and by a more pointed identification of critical technology to be sought by a joint assessment effort.
  • Studies and experimentation of institutional innovations, especially in developing countries, should be encouraged.
  • End-use energy efficiency should be encouraged, in particular through integrated resource planning and demand-side management; it is important that, in parallel to liberalisation of the supply side, market barriers and tariff disincentives to demand-side activities be removed. The priorities should be shifted from provision of energy sources to energy services.
  • In order to meet the commitments relating to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, joint implementation and clean development mechanisms should be highly promoted in the economies in transition and in the developing countries, provided the selected projects are economically and technically justified.


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