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EXPO 2017 Astana: The Renewable Energy turns to the future

Since June 10, 2017 the international exhibition “EXPO 2017 – Future Energy” has been open in Astana, Kazakhstan. For 3 months Astana will be the platform where renewable energy technologies are demonstrated. The American President is not in favour of The Paris Agreement (COP21), but at the same time The Global Pact on the Environment has been presented to President Macron by Laurent Fabius. This exhibition takes place in the global context of increasingly fossil fuel scarcity, along with global warming which is the defining challenge of the 21st century.

EXPO 2017 Astana - Future Energy - invites us to fully rethink our energy model and even our economic growth model. In the Kazakh steppe, energy transition and geopolitical stabilization are falling into complete synergy, and where Made in France « sustainable technological innovation » is celebrated.

The « Green Energy Vision » in the Central Asia steppes

The European Union’s target of 20% of energy consumption from renewable energy sources (RES) by 2030 is placed within the context of an increasing global demand for energy, particularly for electricity. Kazakhstan, which could potentially become the third largest oil producer in the world, aims at becoming a key partner in the implementation of this “green energy vision”. It is to be noted that this, the first ever International Exhibition organised in Central Asia, is dedicated to renewable energies and “green growth”. The approach of this outstanding exhibition diverges from a shotgun economic vision. The traditional approach consists of computing solely the price of an additional unit of capacity (say, the cost of setting up a 1 TWh plant and exploiting it). A more nuanced and sophisticated approach also takes into account the pertinent externalities generated by the set up and exploitation of an additional capacity in terms of public health and climate change. Although it overlooks these negative externalities, the shotgun approach is however the origin of an unprecedented wave of investments among some of the countries’ best endowed with oilfields and especially with coal which increase production capacities of non-renewable energies.

In contrast, at the exhibition in Astana, the need for energy efficiency, as well as our earth's salvation in being explicitly built based on the three following pillars:

  • Energy saving (by production and distributive capacities management optimisation, and an overall economy less demanding in energy)

  • Carbon production control (taxation, storage)

  • More powerful RES Technologies (photovoltaic cells, revolutionary batteries, ICT charger, two blades wind mills, flying turbines)

It is to be stressed that “low carbon” technologies are on display throughout the exhibition. They support the thesis, brought in particular by Berkeley University, according to which the introduction of a new “low carbon cycle” based on a more appropriate energy mix between organic-fuels, artificial photosynthesis, nuclear, photovoltaic, biomass, wind, geothermic, CO2 capture and energy storage will lead to a substantial and meaningful decrease in global CO2 emissions.

During the 2015 Future Energy Forum (UNESCO), prior to the EXPO 2017, which I attended, Professor R. Ramesh Berkeley’s Lab for Energy Technologies Associate Director demonstrated that by 2050, the new carbon cycle implementation would divide by a factor of eight CO2 emissions. In 2010, the production of 1 PWh (1012 KWh) generated 60 carbon Mega Tonnes (MT) against 7.5 MT, in projection according to this new proposed carbon cycle by 2050.

Towards a “sustainable growth” compliant with the Global Pact on the Environment

On June 24, 2017, Laurent Fabius presented to President Macron the Global Pact on the Environment which aims to reinforce environmental legislation.

Energy efficiency and the “best practices of energy production” should limit global warming to less than 2 degrees by 2050, in accordance with the Paris Agreement (COP21) and the Global Pact on the Environment.

At the EXPO 2017 - Astana the energy challenge as a whole is symbolized by the huge, central sphere of the Museum of the Future. In this central showcase 115 countries, including France, Russia, China and the United States, demonstrate their best “sustainable energy technologies”; in addition 22 international organizations are among the participants. National pavilions and thematic pavilions stand alongside each other, along several “thematic itineraries” World of Energy, Energy for life, Energy for all and My future Energy.

Following the International Exhibition tour in Paris, at the Place of the Pantheon, the Made in France innovation is now being celebrated in Astana. French excellence in eco-responsible technologies is represented by the “concrete solutions” of the key partners Peugeot, Saint-Gobain, Total, Veolia and Vicat, as well as the institutions’ one Iter, Syctom, and ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency).

In the accordance with the Global Pact on the Environment, the French pavilion distinguishes itself by covering the following main topics:

  • Eco-cities and “smart cities”

  • Renewable Energy

  • Eco-Transport

The International Energy Agency (IEA) highlights green building technologies and the potential of highly energy efficiency green transport. The visitor has the opportunity to take an acoustic shower provided by the Saint Gobain Multi Comfort design.

The EXPO 2017 - Astana also aims to support the optimization between production and consumption through the use of big data, connections to various sensors and smart devices, dynamic data sources, the internet of things and shared information within the ecosystem. The “energy smart distribution” is supplied through the “smart grid” (smart electricity grid).

Electric vehicle development is also integrated into the “smart grid” Peugeot shows its technological know-how with sustainable mobility vehicles Quartz, e-Kick, e-Vivacity and EC03.200. The transport concept is re-imagined;individual transport is being melted into a global transport system, and more over exclusive ownership of cars becomes a rarity.

The Kazakh President Nazarbayev’s “Strategy 2030”, according to which Kazakhstan will join the 50 most developed countries in 2030 focuses on “sustainable development”, as Erlan Idrissov (the former Kazakh Minister for Foreign Affairs ) stated to me in Astana in September 2016, “Kazakhstan maintains excellent diplomatic relations with France”.

Facing the energy challenge, the EXPO 2017 Astana - Future Energy is the place to be for the Energy Transition Agenda in the heart of the Kazakh steppe.

This paper was originally published in the French online edition of the newspaper Agora Vox on June 26, 2017

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