In the wake of UNCED we have received many articles on the issue of sustainable development. In this issue of "Abstracts" we summarize articles on different aspects of the environment issue from readers and members living in Mauritius, Ghana, Europe, and North America.
International Cooperation for Renewable Energy Transfer
Michael Hesse Wolfe, International Energy Planning Consultant, Berkeley, California
Large-scale conversion, transfer and utilization of renewable energy offers a suitable strategy to counter environmental problems caused by combustion of fossil fuels. Michael Hesse Wolfe argues that several conditions are necessary for future development of renewable energy; these being: the extent of concern for the global environment, the economy of energy conversion and transfer, and a viable development strategy to implement a series of regional economic-environmental compacts. International cooperation to arrange these compacts would be essential as the remote location of concentrations of renewable energy resources requires that high-voltage transmission systems be used o deliver electrical energy over very long distances to regional demand centres. This would involve the interests of countries having substantial renewable energy resources, countries on the transmission corridor route, and potential energy purchasing nations that would be prepared to utilize renewable energy to displace equivalent energy generation with fossil fuels, consistent with overall economic operation and system reliability. OECD nations would be the principal recipients of energy.
His article seeks to show that sufficient regard for global environmental security would provide an imperative for development of renewable energy on a massive scale. Major regional renewable energy generation sources such as large unit capacity hydro stations, would enable economies of scale with high efficiency energy conversion. This would compensate for large losses in the transmission system, to enable economic delivery of energy from remote sources to distant demand centres. Regional energy transfer would be possible in The Americas, between Africa and Europe, and within Austral-Asia and the pacific.
He goes on to show that technical and economic considerations favor HVDC transmission for delivery of energy over very long distances. Study of a potential HVDC link between the Inga hydropower complex in Zaire and Europe over a seven thousand km route, indicates that energy could be delivered at a rate significantly below the cost of alternative fossil generation. If this differential were to be regarded as the price of environmentally benign energy, and buyers would be prepared to pay the equivalent of fossil generated energy, an "environmental surcharge" applied to delivered energy, would generate considerable revenue that could be used via an African Development Fund for social programs such as education, health and village development, including micro-energy and mini-hydro projects. It could provide a definite model for similar arrangements in other regions of the world.
To provide appropriate organizational strength to implement such large-scale energy generation and transmission projects involving a number of participating nations, it is proposed that a new international agency be responsible for development of major renewable energy resources for export to OECD nations. This agency, preferably in the United Nations Organization, could play a valid intermediary role between the various participants to regional agreements involving energy transfer. The World Bank and regional banks could buy-down existing country debt to include as local currency investment funds for project elements. Political compacts, with economic-environment-development provisions, would include the direct benefits to developing nations of immediate debt relief and long-term revenue flow based on renewable energy export. He concludes that these compacts would provide an equivalent benefit to energy importing nations of a reliable source of environmentally benign energy at a cost equivalent to generation from fossil sources. This would be a prime example of the positive results of international cooperation. Due to a recent enlightened decision by the energy and environment ministers of the European Community (EC), to agree in principle to impose an energy tax on the future combustion of fossil fuels, a logical beginning to the establishment of regional compacts around the glove would embrace the Zaire-Europe HVDC interconnection between Grand Inga and delivery terminals in Spain and Italy, interconnected to EC systems.