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Energy Experts Ponder End of Oil

Monday 14 November 2005

Energy Experts Ponder ‘Once Oil’s Gone, Then What’?
- Otago University hosts international conference on sustainable energy options-

If the world’s crude oil supply peaks soon and heads into permanent decline, will renewable energy be able to fill the gap in time? How will this transition be managed, and what might this new low carbon world look like?

These are some of the key questions that about 100 participants from New Zealand and around the world will explore at a renewable energy conference to be opened by Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons at the University of Otago later this month.

The conference runs between Monday 28 November and 30th November 2005 at the University’s Castle Lecture Theatre complex.

The annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society - Solar 2005 brings together oil depletion analysts and renewable energy researchers “with the aim of creating a useful dialogue between the two groups and a better understanding of the world’s energy situation”, says conference convenor Associate Professor Bob Lloyd of Physics.

There are signs that the world’s oil production will peak in the near future and begin its inevitable decline, though some commentators argue that we are already at this ‘peak oil’ stage, says Assoc Prof Lloyd, who directs the University’s Energy Studies Programme.

“No matter whether it’s happening now, next year or in the next 20 years, there is still an urgent need to start thinking seriously about how we can develop renewable energy strategies to make up for an ever scarcer supply of oil and gas,” he says.

The conference’s international keynote speakers on oil depletion and its far-reaching consequences include the President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), Professor Kjell Aleklett of Sweden, and University of Colorado Emeritus Professor of Physics Albert Bartlett, who has been sounding warnings since well before the last oil crisis in the 1970s.

Prof Aleklett will talk on the increasing awareness of the peak oil concept and what the future has to offer in terms of fossil fuel energy supply, while Prof Bartlett will give his famous presentation debunking the persistent, but mathematically impossible, expectation that finite resources can fuel exponential growth indefinitely, says Assoc Prof Lloyd.

Other international speakers include Ian Lowe, chairperson of the Australian Conservation Foundation and author of the recently released book, A Big Fix: radical solutions for Australia's environmental crisis, NGO consultant Suliana Siwatibau of Fiji who will talk on the developing world’s perspectives on sustainable energy in a future of oil shortages, while renewable energy consultant Thomas Ackermann of Germany will discuss wind energy penetration of existing power grids.

From New Zealand, entrepreneur Geoff Henderson from Windflow technologies in Christchurch will give his view on wind energy in New Zealand, while Brenda and Robert Vale, respectively Professor and Associate Professor at the Auckland University School of Architecture, will talk on what housing might look like in a world without oil.

In addition to the keynote speakers, over 60 papers will be presented during the conference’s technical sessions. Special workshops will look at oil depletion and the future energy situation for the developing world.

Prof Aleklett will also give a public lecture on peak oil at 5:30pm on Wednesday 30 November in the University Castle 1 lecture theatre.

Solar 2005 is co-hosted by the University of Otago and Solar Action NZ and sponsored by the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority of NZ (EECA), the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) and Solahart Industries.

ENDS

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