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TODAYonline: Energy initiative takes centre stage at EBRD conference

Energy initiative takes centre stage at EBRD conference
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 21-May-2006 18:29 hrs
Jean Lemierre, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) speaks in London, April 2006. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development kicks off its annual meeting with an initiative to slash energy waste and pollution across the 27 countries in which it operates.
 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development kicks off its annual meeting with an initiative to slash energy waste and pollution across the 27 countries in which it operates. .

The two-day conference comes also as the EBRD continues to focus on investment opportunities in southeastern Europe, where countries including Bulgaria and Romania are battling to win EU membership.

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Around 2,000 journalists and delegates will descend on London to attend the annual event which spills over into Monday.

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The EBRD, which is headquartered in the British capital, will launch its Sustainable Energy Initiative to address the issue of energy waste and security, climate change, and the need for cleaner sources of energy.

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Under the initiative, the bank will invest up to 1.5 billion euros (1.9 billion dollars) in energy efficiency, renewable and clean energy projects over the next three years.

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With further financing from other investors it is hoped that figure could rise to 5.0 billion euros. The bank aims also to win an additional 100 million euros from donor governments.

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Meanwhile, the EBRD is mulling new investment in the controversial Sakhalin II project, on the island of Sakhalin, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Japan's coast.

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Before the meeting, EBRD president Jean Lemierre said that a decision would probably be reached by September on financing an expansion of the Shell-led oil and gas project in Russia's far east.

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Environmentalists, geologists and community leaders object to extra funding on environmental, social, health and safety grounds.

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The EBRD invests in central and southeastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Russia and some nations in central Asia.

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The group is shifting its focus away from the Baltic states and central Europe, whose countries joined the European Union in 2004, and towards southeastern Europe and Russia.

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“The EBRD is able to assume the greater risk associated with this kind of shift because of the financial strength it has built over the past 15 years,” said Lemierre, the bank's president since July 2000.

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The European Commission has meanwhile piled pressure on Bulgaria and Romania, delaying this week a decision on whether they can join the EU next year pending further action on reform.

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The conference will also feature Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, while the British government will be represented by British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn.

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Founded in 1991 to assist the transition of former communist nations to market economies, the EBRD operates in 27 countries from central Europe to Central Asia. — AFP

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