Diversification: a blessing or showstopper?

March 7, 2013 | 00:00

Diversification: a blessing or showstopper?

It seems that Europe is following two tracks concerning the energy transition. Eurocratics believe in a topdown approach in order to unite the member states under an umbrella of collective regulations that advance the transition towards a sustainable future. The member states themselves follow a trail very much linked to their national characteristics as far as energy is concerned. Discussions are rising, as this weeks main feature makes clear.

In our main feature Claudia Kemfert, an authority on energy in Germany, criticizes the direction the discussion about the energy transition has taken in her country. "A propaganda war is going on against the Green-future", is her negative judgment, "that bears the risk of leading towards a failing management of the transition [Energiewende in the german language], that started so promising."
 
A heterogeneous group including utilities is expressing the opinion that everything 'green' is bad, so she told EER-correspondent Paul Hockenos. Kemfert describes the strategy of this group as a dissemination of myths, powered by a campaign for which millions of euros are available. It is not an emotional outburst. Claudia Kemfert, director of the Energy, Transportation and Environment Unit at the prestigious Deutsche Institut für Wirtschafsforschung in Berlin, is known as an energy expert with a balanced opinion and realistic view. But recently she wrote a polemic, argumentative book with the title 'The Battle over Electricity: Myths, Power, and Monopolies', expressing her concern. "It is not an energy transition, but an electric supply transition", is her strong statement.
 
For various reasons this could be considered as a wake-up call from her perspective. Germany is one of Europe's biggest energy consuming countries and in recent years the country showed an open approach to the challenges of an inevitable energy transition. In some respects Germany has taken the lead. However, the reality is a less united stream of visions and rather could turn into a delta of conservative flows and modest and tardy progress. If this will be the case in Germany, how should we envisage the future of energy transition in the whole of Europe. Henceforth Claudia Kemfert rings the bell.
 
Europe is a continent in which a basket of energy usage and mixes can be found more geographically close to each other and diversified at the same time than anywhere else in the world. On the one hand this can be regarded as an advantage; Europe acts as a lab where every possibility related to energy transition is being discussed, analysed and researched, both on the level of the EU-Commission as well as on a national scale. On the other hand such a diversification can lead to fragmentation that stands in the way of a steady but fast moving development into the new energy future. The threat of fragmentation is mind tingling, because the energy supply, transport and security in practice is a very interwoven and interdependable system.
 
In a way this diversification is asking for a supranational approach and overall EU-strategy. However, the majority of European countries are facing urgent internal problems due to the economic crisis. The efforts of the respective governments are at least for the coming period aimed at the restructuring of their financial buildings. At the same time energy security enforces a tendency to stick to the national characteristics of the energy sector. Politically it seems better to be sure and conservative than to act innovative but with doubt.
 
This actual conflict of national struggles and EU-collective interests in the energy sector turns Europe into a stage where most instructive plays, to put it positively, are to be followed in the short and in the medium long term.

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