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Cheapest energy is the best energy: Nobel Laureate

Feb 02, 2013

Nobel Laureate Prof. Carlo Rubbia mesmerised the crowd by his part-scientific and part-policy views on energy at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013 (DSDS), organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

In a highly interactive session, the physicist said that efforts should be made to provide renewable energy at affordable rates.

The foremost concern that the distinguished scientist, who is the Scientific Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Germany, shared was the storage of energy. “Energy in the form of heat and chemical can be stored but it’s very difficult to store electrical energy,” he said. Saying that 300 million people don’t have electricity in the country, Rubbia said that India has solar energy as an asset that should be developed. But again, he said, the problem is its storage and high cost.

Besides suggesting solar energy as a solution for India, the Nobel laureate mentioned thorium as another source of energy that could be tapped by the country. He said that India and China have thorium in abundance and it is a fuel that cannot be converted into weapons the way uranium can. Moreover, according to Rubbia, it is a mineral that has a short lifecycle which means that waste management is easy and it has a smaller impact on the environment.

Responding to a question from the audience, he also elaborated why hydrogen cannot be used as a fuel. Rubbia said: “Hydrogen has low density and is highly inflammable. It’s not a credible solution. It will remain an intermediate product, but not a final one.”

The way ahead, according to Rubbia, for a world that is increasingly consuming more and more energy, is to take renewable energy to larger populations. He also stressed on innovation, research and study to ensure that energy is cheaper, cleaner and is accessible.

He said that countries will have to show a political will to promote the use of renewable energy and for that they should coordinate and collaborate with each other.

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