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Regular version of the site


Energy Saving: Forecasts and Research

Recently the U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law (USRF) awarded a grant to the Higher School of Economics and the University of North Carolina for a joint research project. Oleg Karasev, Deputy Director of the HSE Foresight Center, told us about this project.

—Oleg, could you tell us a little bit about the Foundation which is supplying this grant?

USRF was founded as a non-commercial organization in the USA in 2008. Its Russian office has been open since early 2009. The aim of creating such a foundation for the support of long-term economic development and strengthening of the ties between Russia and the U.S. was declared by the Presidents of the two countries in 2006 at the G-8 Summit. The mission of the Foundation is to support the long term development of the market economy in Russia. You can find out more about the foundation and its grant programmes on its official website.

—What is the purpose of the project?

When we were planning the project, we wanted to focus on several aims. Firstly, the development of research in the power industry and energy efficiency. The task of building an energy efficient economy is a priority in many countries today. The depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, on one hand, and on the other hand, the development of alternative energy sources, are very important for the future of the economy. In Russia issues of power sector development are a priority because energy resources are the basis of our export potential. The Russian economy today is one of the most power-consuming, and this raises the problem of how to effectively use our natural resources.

Today there is a broad spectrum of opportunities for the implementation of energy-efficient technologies not only in industry, but also in everyday life. Considerable savings can be achieved through the implementation of both cutting-edge technologies and simple practical solutions. That's why, in our view, it is important not only to develop new technological ideas, but to create a system of energy saving measures. It is essential to discuss the accumulated experience of implementing energy saving programmes with a broad circle of experts and choose the most successful examples to further spread best practices to other areas of activity.

The second task of this project is the development of systematic cooperation with foreign partners. The HSE Institute of Institute of Statistical Research and Knowledge Economics already has such an experience:In recent years our staff have been maintaining professional contacts with colleagues from various countries;there is a vast practical experience of participation in international organizations'work groups. But we specifically see bilateral research projects as a serious opportunity for developing cooperation. One of the ways for such cooperation can be applications for joint grants, exactly as in this project.

—Why did you choose this university as a partner?

The University of North Carolina has been carrying out research in this for a long time. They have accumulated a large bank of knowledge which can make a considerable contribution to our project. Within the University there is a special department called The Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development, which realizes a broad spectrum of educational and research programmes directly relating to the problem of increasing energy efficiency nationally as well as internationally. In addition to this, an important factor in our choice was our partner's willingness to advance the new project, to develop bilateral contacts not only now, but also in the future. For our American colleagues this is not the first experience of cooperating with Russia. Many participants in the project have previously organized seminars and carried out research relating to the scientific and technological development of Russia. Such projects have taken place in Moscow as well as in the Moscow and Sverdlovsk regions.

—What will be the forms of the bilateral cooperation?

The project supported by the USRF grant is only the first stage of a big research project which we are planning to realize together. In the first stage our task is to work through the technology of partner interaction. In addition to the information exchange, we are going to organize joint seminars in Russia and the USA and initiate a series of expert discussions regarding energy efficiency problems. These discussions will involve various groups of experts, such as representatives of governmental bodies who form state policy in this area, members of industrial companies implementing innovations in the workplace and developers of new technologies. In other words, all interested parties who are working towards the solution of energy efficiency problems. We believe that such consolidation of effort will guarantee the projects'success. 

Currently we are preparing a list of organizations who it would be useful to involve in our discussions. Among them are such international organizations as UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), OECD, and the International Energy Agency. Based on international experience, we are planning to develop a series of specific case studies as a foundation for recommendations on energy efficiency policies. Energy saving today is a practical problem, and it is important to understand which approaches will provide most success

—What other tasks are the project founders involved in?

Considerable attention in the project is paid to the issues of analysis and improvement of state policies. It is no secret that an important condition for the success of energy efficiency programmes is active governmental participation. We are planning to hold a complex investigation of policies adopted in different countries and, based on this, make a series of recommendations. To provide a ground for such recommendations, the analysis will be based on several principles, such as best practices, country specific factors and world trends including those in the technological area.

Another of the aims of the project is the implementation of the acquired results in the educational process. We are planning to develop a system of educational disciplines devoted to the issues of an energy efficient economy, use of energy saving technologies and evaluation of their economic effect.

—What areas of expenditure does the grant imply and is it limited by any time frames?

The grant is for one year, which will involve the first phase of work, such as generalization of the experience accumulated by partner organizations and solution of key scientific problems which will then become the basis for the project's further development. Activities which will be carried out during the opening stage include the analysis of key trends and forecasts in energy saving, investigation of policies implemented in this area on national level in Russia and the USA and the main tools and directions of further development. A considerable part of the project will be the study of the priorities in state policies as well as the basic energy efficiency technologies used in our countries.

—Please tell us about the possible directions of the project's further development.

This proposed project is the first step towards cooperation with the University of North Carolina. In fact we aim to begin a series of joint research in the area of the power industry.

Primarily, we would like to realize in this field the methodological reserve accumulated by the HSE Foresight Center, particularly to suggest the roadmap system as a tool for creating a complex energy efficiency strategy at a national level. It is important to remember that the world is constantly developing, new energy saving technologies are emerging, new markets are forming, new scientific solutions are appearing. Each development can be a breakthrough;it does not always just follow on from previously existing trends. However, the experts carrying out research in this area and applying new technologies have a certain understanding of future trends. It is important to reveal those signals, bring them together them in a unified system, and to use this basis to build a complex vision of a long-term energy efficient economy.

The factors defining future development are numerous and various. They include factors of demand, such as changes in people's life style and their consumer preferences, various government programmes, as well as the factors of supply, such as the appearance of new scientific and technological solutions. To develop a reasonable development strategy it is necessary to tie together future needs and the possibility to cope with them, to create a chain linking research with specific technologies and energy efficient products. Road maps enable us to do this. Their ultimate task is to develop the trajectories of innovative development which not only lead to achievement of goals, but which are able to be realized by all key market participants.

Another direction of the project development is connected with improving the system of statistical accounting in the area of energy efficiency. Evaluation of the progress in this field demands first of all a good information base, compatible with world standards.

—What areas of the economy need energy efficient technologies the most?

In our view, the economy as a whole is in need of this. Practically all areas have room for improving energy efficiency:the energy production sector, the transfer and distribution of power and its use in specific fields of economy and everyday consumption.

But as part of this project we suggest focusing on three key areas with great potential for energy efficiency. Those are industrial and non-industrial buildings, cargo and passenger transport, as well as a number of industrial areas, including cement, chemical, paper industry, ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy.

Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service