Power Technology: You are expecting Power-Gen Europe to be the largest ever European power industry show. What will be the focus of this year's event?
Nigel Blackaby: With the conference based in Italy, we will be looking a little more in depth at Italy's particular needs and challenges for this sector.
Italy currently has a high reliance on gas for power generation and it is beginning to see an increasing use of coal and renewables. Over the next five years Italy's use of coal is expected to increase from 14% to 33%. The market there is largely liberalised with competition opening up.
PT: What does this mean for Italy?
NB: The country has growing need for power generation and underlying need to get gas supplies and the need to diversify its sources of fuel.
Gas supplies need to be imported from Russia but that's not a secure position for a country to be in, hence the diversification to coal and renewables. Italy has also got the right climate for wind, photovoltaics and geothermal.
These are the areas we will be focusing a bit more on compared with [the event] in Spain in 2007. The focus on Italy will largely differentiate Power-Gen from last year.
PT: You talk about the move towards renewables which is part of a push toward tackling climate change through cleaner energy. Has the emphasis shifted towards renewables since Madrid and other high-profile conferences such as the World Energy Congress in Rome last year?
NB: Large events such as energy congress underscore the environment as being a key driver in this business.
[Following last year's event] we realised that the environment would have to be an increasing part of our activity in the power sector and we've done so by enlarging our renewable activity.
In our programme, [we don't provide] just lip service, it's about consultations and papers on how to make effective change. It comes down to the engineers and operators to make change.
Power-Gen also has a co-located conference on renewables that will focus on this.
PT: How will the emphasis on environmental issues be presented at Power-Gen Europe this year?
NB: We've got an entire track and sessions devoted to green issues, which implies the importance of our industry to protect the environment through what it does.
With our plenary session looking at the environment, we are trying to voice the power professionals' responses to how they will meet this challenge.
PT: With new EU directives on reducing carbon emissions currently creating debate, will the sessions look at the issue of carbon credits?
NB: Carbon credits are undoubtedly going to come up in our main plenary session on 3rd June and will certainly be a main highlight of the event.
We are bringing all of the tracks together (including Power-Grid and Renewable Energy) by gathering a group of experts who will address the power industry's response to the climate change challenge.
Carbon credits and trading of carbon is part of how industry will be motivated and incentivised to reduce its carbon footprint.
PT: How do you think the industry will work to ultimately combat climate change?
NB: We hear a lot about environmental groups but not the professional industry voices because those groups get more media attention. It's not necessarily a different view but a more practical one.
It's going to be through technology that we probably make the most progress in terms of combating climate change.
PT: You talk about technology being at the centre of change. What kind of technological innovations can visitors expect to see?
NB: There's going to be a comprehensive array of [technology] solutions for almost any challenge power industry professionals might pose.
If you are an industry professional facing a challenge there's probably someone else there who has found a solution and who can share an experience with you.
We have a seven-track conference, with five tracks looking at the technology that's going to be employed in the power industry now and in the future to achieve the goals of efficient operation and clean, environmentally friendly technology.
We have two sessions which will be a master class on particular technology solutions with the latest developments, for example, gas turbines with the latest innovations.
PT: What role will information technology play and how will this be presented at the event?
NB: The IT part is increasingly important; it's the brains behind the power plant.
Manufacturers are responding to the [growing need of IT] by developing pretty sophisticated systems, allowing plant operators to optimise the efficient running of their plants.
[We will also look at] reliability, which is another important thing power generators have to look to as companies will have penalties if they have unplanned outages. In a competitive environment, [energy] availability and reliability are very important.
PT: Will there be any new features or changes to this year's exhibit? What else can visitors expect to see?
NB: We are looking more closely at distributor generation – the part of the power industry which is not just utility level but looks at combined heat, industrial power and energy production.
On the exhibition floor there's going to be a separate area devoted to cogeneration and on-site power.
So it's not all just about large utilities but also smaller-level factories and industrial sites generating their own power, which can often be more efficient.
Power-Gen Europe and its co-located sister events Power-Grid Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe will take place on 3–5 June at the Fiera Milano, Milan, Italy.