US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says the initiatives agreed during the inaugural Clean Energy Ministerial, if fully implemented, will avoid the need to build more than 500 mid-sized power plants in the next 20 years.

They will also support the growing global market for renewable energy and carbon capture technologies, bring solar lanterns and other improved energy services to more than 10 million people without access to grid electricity by 2015, and help encourage women to pursue careers in clean energy.

Participating countries account for more than 80% of global energy consumption and the same percentage of the market for clean energy technologies.

The countries were Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the US. The European Commission also took part. They pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance the initiatives as a means to combat global warming.

The push to cut fossil fuel consumption comes as President Barack Obama's administration has been unable to get a climate bill through Congress, while UN-sponsored talks are plodding along far from agreement on how to slash global greenhouse gas emissions.

The 11 initiatives were divided into three groups: Clean Energy Supply, Clean Energy Efficiency Challenge and Clean Energy Access.

Clean Energy Supply includes four initiatives: solar and wind, hydropower, bioenergy and carbon capture and storage.

The solar and wind initiative will be led by Denmark, France, Germany, Japan and Spain. Initial work will focus on developing a global atlas for solar and wind, and a related long-term strategy on building generation capacity for both energy sources that can be complimentary.

Brazil, France, Mexico and Norway will lead the initiative to promote sustainable hydropower development in Africa, Asia and Central America, and identify potential financial resources from multilateral organizations to advance such projects. A pilot program will be set up to compile an inventory of sustainable hydropower in an African country using new methodology.

Brazil will lead the bioenergy initiative, helped by Italy and Sweden. Initial activities include building upon existing databases of global bioenergy potential that can be developed in sustainable fashion, and identifying new uses of biomass by poor communities in sustainable and efficient ways. The group will also focus on locating regional centers of excellence in bioenergy research and development for second generation biofuels and biomass for power generation.

The Clean Energy Efficiency Group includes five initiatives: equipment and appliances, buildings and industry, smart grid, electric vehicles, and capacity building for developing country policymakers.

The Clean Energy Access Group includes two initiatives: off-grid appliances and empowerment of women in energy.

"What we've seen here is that working together, we can accomplish more, faster, than working alone," says Chu.

The United Arab Emirates offered to host the second Clean Energy Ministerial in spring 2011.

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