A quick holiday guide to EER
Back from holiday? Please note that EER is taking a break in August. We will be back with new publications on the 29th of August. Ready for another run! Until that time we are not publishing new material. However, while you were gone you may have missed some of the interesting articles we published in June or July. So, to help you find your way, we have prepared a quick overview of our recent publications. And we reveal what were our best-read articles in the first half of 2011! We hope you enjoy catching up on your reading and to see you back at the end of August.
By Jan Willem Nienhuys
This is a somewhat unusual article for EER. It is about a scientific topic, but one that is highly important for the nuclear energy sector, namely radioactivity. It was written by a Dutch mathematician and science writer, Jan Willem Nienhuys, and first published in a Dutch magazine, but we thought it was so important that we asked the author to prepare an English version of it. Nienhuys argues that scientific evidence shows that radiation is beneficial to people in small doses. If this is true, it means that current safety regulation, which is based on the assumption that there is no ‘threshold’ for risks from exposure to radioactivity, should be reviewed. A story that gives you something to think about.
So you think the German public is the “greenest” in the world? Well, maybe. But, contrary to their image, people in France may well be just as “environmentally conscious” as those in Germany. Nowhere is opposition to GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) as strong as in France. And France recently became the first country in the world to enact a total ban on hydraulic fracturing (i.e. on the exploration and production of shale gas), also as a result of public protests. The growing “green vote” is even targeting nuclear power. As our Paris correspondent Yves de Saint Jacob reports, the French energy sector is desperately wondering where the spirit of Descartes has gone.
The announcement of a proposed partnership between RWE and Gazprom sent shockwaves through Europe. But really – energy experts have for some time been warning that the EU’s diversification strategy was failing. And the German government’s nuclear phase-out was bound to make Europe more dependent on Russian gas. Our reporter Rudolf ten Hoedt attended the opening of a new Gazprom gas storage facility in Austria and noted that the Russians are spoiling for a fight with Brussels. ‘We have been much too shy with politicians and regulators’, was their message. This is one story that will not go away for some time!
By Sonja van Renssen
Energy efficiency is something of a mystery. At one level, it is everybody’s darling. From the European Climate Foundation to ExxonMobil, everybody loves energy efficiency. And expects the world of it. At the same time, if there is one EU climate policy that is not working out, it is the one on energy efficiency. The EU Member States tend to resist energy saving ukazes from the European Commission, fearing the heavy bureauractic hand of Brussels’ bureaucrats. With a new draft Directive on Energy Efficiency, the European Commission is trying to turn the tide. Unfortunately, as our Brussels correspondent Sonja van Renssen reports, the Directive is so complex and contains so many ambiguities that its effectiveness is questionable. If you want to know the latest about the great European Energy Efficient Fight, don’t miss this story.
By Matthew Hulbert
Our regular commentator Matthew Hulbert, a specialist in energy security matters, is someone who tends to think out-of-the-box. In other words: he has these strange ideas sometimes! Like this one: wouldn’t it be a good idea for the EU to get together with China and present a united front towards the Russian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern oil and gas producers? After all, the EU and China are the major importing blocs – and the role of the US, which for decades maintained order on the world oil market, is receding. Far-fetched? Maybe, but at the same time it makes eminent sense. Matthew may really be on to something here: don’t miss his analysis if you are interested in the grand geopolitical stuff.
By Hughes Sharman
Probably no country in Europe has more ambitious climate change goals than the UK. At the same time, unlike for instance Germany and France, the UK has not taken many concrete actions to realise its ambitions. Germany has massively subsidized wind and solar power, and France relies on low-carbon nuclear power. The UK, by contrast, has settled broadly on a strategy of relying on a combination of offshore wind power and nuclear energy, without however, taking many concrete steps to ensure that investments into these sectors are forthcoming. Many observers are concerned about this – as they see it – mismatch between grand ambitions and sound policies. Long-time energy consultant Hughes Sharman wrote an extensive article for European Energy Review in which he argues that the UK’s goals – low-carbon, secure, affordable energy – are contradictory and will lead his country down the road to an energy “meltdown”. Not a very optimistic story, but it deserves to be read.
By Yves de Saint Jacob
The fallout of Fukushima will be with us for a long time to come. It certainly has not made life easier for the French nuclear power sector. Nonetheless, in the short term the French nuclear flagship company Areva managed to make the most of the disaster. It was quick to position itself as a global nuclear safety specialist, ready to ‘help out’ wherever there may be problems with nuclear power stations. As Areva's CEO Anne Lauvergeon put it in a radio interview: ‘Doctor Areva is ready to intervene where he is needed!’ But that was before she was fired by President Sarkozy and replaced by insider Luc Oursel, who has some real long-term challenges on his hands, as Yves reports.
Oliver Gnad and Marcel Viëtor
When President Kennedy announced the plan of putting a man on the moon, he certainly managed to energize his country. With the EU in disarray, some might argue we need a new practical vision to unite behind. Could that vision be the famous Desertec concept? Desertec, as you probably know, is a comprehensive plan to develop renewable energy resources in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA), not just for export to Europe but also to meet domestic needs. However, according to Oliver Gnad of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and Marcel Viëtor of the German Council on Foreign Relations, Desertec could be much more than that: it could be the “Grand Design” needed to energize Europe and help it to jump over its own shadow to unite with its neighbouring regions, which are thirsting for cooperation. For this to happen, though, Desertec - they add - must become “Chefsache” in Brussels. Intrigued? Then do check out this highly original article.
So much for our July offerings. In June too we published some interesting articles, of which we provide a quick rundown below:
By Matthew Hulbert
The IEA's unexpected intervention in the oil market looks to be an all-around bad call, argues Matthew Hulbert.
By Iana Dreyer
Iana Dreyer calls on the European Commission to break up and shake up the stagnant European gas market.
By Karel Beckman
The Merkel government's nuclear U-turn, argues EER's editor Karel Beckman, is a game-changer for the energy sector.
By Karel Beckman
Report from Eurelectric's Annual Conference in Stockholm.
By Reiner Gatermann
What the gas industry wants above all from European policymakers is a clear signal that they “go for gas”.
By Sonja van Renssen
A wide-ranging article, based on interviews with many stakeholders and experts, EER’s Brussels correspondent Sonja van Renssen discusses public acceptance cases from across Europe.
By Ekke Overbeek
Poland is counting its shale gas chickens before they are hatched, reports Ekke Overbeek from Warsaw.
By Michael Klare
Michael Klare, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in the US, gives a gloomy assessment of the state of the energy world.
By Karel Beckman
Europe's unilateral climate policies are driving the producers of non-ferrous metals out of Europe, says Robert Jan Jeekel, Energy & Climate Change of Eurometaux.
Finally, you may perhaps like to know what were our best-read articles in 2011 so far. Here is our top-10, with the caveat that our most recent articles have not been on the site for as long as some of the older ones of course, so it is not entirely fair to compare them.
1. The Dutch lose faith in windmills – Karel Beckman and Alexander Haje
2. The ten inconvenient truths that shape our new energy world order – Matthew Hulbert
3. German shale gas faces uphill battle – Stefan Nicola
4. The global energy crisis deepens – Michael Klare
5. Fukushima: an earthquake for the French energy sector – Yves de Saint Jacob
6. Our unpredictable, bright energy future – Karel Beckman
7. Shale gas doesn't make Poland the new Norway yet – Ekke Overbeek
8. 'The energy sector is still in the dark ages when it comes to satisfying consumers' – Sonja van Renssen and Karel Beckman
9. A giant comes to life in the deserts of Qatar – Alex Forbes
10. Public acceptance - the energy sector's biggest headache – Sonja van Renssen