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Summary:

Many of the initiatives detailed at this week’s Clean Energy Minsterial seem more like pledges to figure out how to reach green energy goals and gain access to necessary data than a definite road map with all the answers in place.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu hosted a two-day international confab this week in Washington, D.C. that drew representatives from 24 countries to put their heads together on how to speed up a transition to cleaner energy. Representing some 80 percent of the world’s energy consumption and about the same portion of the global greentech market, according to the DOE, as well as about 70 percent of the world’s emissions, the group has also been taking advantage of the event as a soap box for highlighting new energy initiatives.

Dubbed the Clean Energy Ministerial, this first-of-its-kind conference yielded pledges for countries to work together on projects related to electric vehicle deployment, smart grid financing, energy efficiency incentives and other green technologies (you can watch the live webcast here through 5:30 ET today).

In total, the participants — representing the UK, China, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Germany and other countries — claim the programs detailed at this week’s forum will “eliminate the need to build more than 500 mid-sized power plants world-wide in the next 20 years.”

In reality many of the initiatives seem more like pledges to figure out how to reach that goal, and to make data more readily accessible that will be needed to make informed investments and strategy decisions. It’s not really a definite road map with all the answers in place, which is a little unnerving when you consider the urgency of the problem and the amount of money that has been allocated or already invested to solve it. Here’s eight programs and pledges to watch as that map takes shape:

  1. Eliminate the least efficient appliances, reward super-efficiency: With the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Initiative, governments are pledging to work with the private sector to provide incentives for super-effiicient appliances and enforcing stronger standards to force the least efficient appliances off the market. First up are energy-guzzling TVs and lighting, which according to the DOE account for around 15 percent of household electricity use. It’s about time: While the U.S. Energy Star program has recently gotten some teeth, it has historically paled in comparison to the energy efficiency programs of many countries in Europe.
  2. Measure and manage buildings’ energy use: Under the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership, nine countries and the European Commission have agreed to set up public-private “task groups” that will focus on deploying the most efficient technologies in “energy-intensive industries” such as power generation, steel and hotel chains. The larger goal of the partnership is to help large buildings and industrial facilities measure and manage their energy use. The governments who are on board with this say they’ll work on certification programs for facilities that adopt improved energy management systems and eke out “significant and indpenendently validated efficiency improvements over time.” Dow Chemical, 3M, Nissan, Walmart, Target, JFE Steel Corp., Tokyo Electric Power and other companies have already joined as pilot participants.
  3. Share data, best practices on electric vehicles: Electric Vehicles Initiative: Sister-city partnerships, high-level discussions, and information-sharing on electric vehicle investments and best practices. Participants agreed to launch pilot programs in coordination with industry, academia and other stakeholders, and share best practices, data and lessons learned to dramatically scale up electric vehicle sales.
  4. Jointly tackle the smart grid’s consumer engagement problem: Through the International Smart Grid Action Network, 15 governments aim to cooperate in areas including smart grid policy, regulation and finance, standards policy, research, development and demonstration of research, and that big bugaboo of the smart grid: consumer engagement. The game plan calls for high-level government dialogue, sharing of best-practices, technical assistance, peer review and project coordination.
  5. Virtually pick experts’ brains: The nine governments participating in developing so-called Clean Energy Solutions Centers (Australia, France, India, Italy, japan, Mexico, South Africa, UAE and the U.S.) plan to create a virtual network to serve as a “a clearinghouse for policy information, supporting a network of at least 100 policy and technology experts with an initial focus on energy efficiency.”
  6. Figure out carbon capture strategy by next year: The Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage Action Group calls for governments and businesses to develop and present recommendations at the next Clean Energy Ministerial regarding how to accelerate carbon capture, use and storage between now and 2020.
  7. Bring clean power data online, train green workers: Denmark, Germany, Japan and Spain have joined hands for the Multilateral Solar and Wind Working Group, which aims to “combine and expand existing databases on wind and solar potential and social and economic conditions into one open web portal that will allow access to user-tailored data.” A group working on “long-term strategy on joint capacity building” is also supposed to provide training opportunities internationally for people working across the spectrum of the wind and solar industries.
  8. Clean up off-grid appliances: The Solar and LED Energy Access Program, or SLED, focuses on the approximately 1.6 billion people who lack access to grid electricity, mostly in developing countries (for more on this issue, check out Katie’s article on Why the Power Buildout Will Mirror Cell Phones in Developing Nations). First announced in December 2009 by Secretary Chu, the DOE said the program officially became active at this week’s conference with the transfer of the first contribution of $10 million from Italy to the International Finance Corporation (which is managing SLED). The goal is to improve lighting services (initially by replacing fossil-fuel powered sources like kerosene lanterns with solar-powered LEd lights) for 10 million people by 2015.

Image courtesy of NREL

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