energyOver the next few decades, one of Europe’s biggest challenges will be keeping the lights on across the continent whilst meeting the EU’s carbon emissions targets. Whilst the eurozone crisis is currently dominating the headlines, Europe’s long-term prosperity will rely on transitioning to clean, reliable and cost-effective energy sources, and critical decisions taken today could potentially lock us into expensive infrastructure development for years to come. Critics argue that Europe’s current energy mix relies too heavily on imported oil and gas from politically unstable parts of the world, along with an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels.

Earlier this year, we asked you how you thought we could best secure clean energy for Europe. We took some of your comments and suggestions on each of the potential ingredients to Europe’s future energy mix, and we posed them to policy-makers and experts from around Europe. You can read the results below.


First up, we received a comment from Dirk, arguing: “In order to completely rely on green energy, we have a long way to go – technologies to deal with the fluctuating nature of solar and wind are simply too expensive or impossible as of today. I think we will need nuclear energy while we make the transition from burning gas/coal to complete renewable energy. And this transition could take very long.

Following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, European governments and publics alike have cooled to nuclear power (though there have been exceptions, such as the agreement signed earlier this year between the UK and France on civil nuclear cooperation). In Italy, a referendum on restarting the country’s nuclear power programme was roundly defeated by a staggering 90% of voters on a turn-out of around 56% – an unambiguous rejection of the technology. Similarly, Germany announced it would be abandoning nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima.

Does Dirk have a point, though? Are renewable technologies ready to pick up the slack from nuclear, or do we need a transition period? Certainly, if one looks at the figures for Germany, renewable energy looks like it will struggle to fill the gap left by nuclear.

At a recent Friends of Europe event on Europe’s energy future, we spoke to Claude Turmes, a Member of the European Parliament for Luxembourg’s Green Party, and asked him to respond to Dirk’s comment.

We also interviewed Malcolm Keay, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, for his take on Dirk’s comment.

Malcolm Keay did not discount nuclear as part of the energy mix, but suggested that it might not be the best compliment to renewables:

Nuclear may well be part of the transition, but it doesn’t solve the problem of the intermittency (the fact that renewables can produce in unpredictable ways) because nuclear is very inflexible, you can’t turn it on and off very quickly. At the moment, the cheapest way of providing flexibility is via fossil plants, particularly gas plants…

We had a detailed comment sent in from Shaun, who made several points. We picked up on his arguement that: “Most countries should probably reduce levels of subsidy for renewable energy. In the midst of a debt crisis and with supressed living standards, this is probably the wrong time to subsidize mass-deployment of (still expensive) wind, wave and solar.

We put this comment to Melchior Wathelet, State Secretary for Environment, Energy and Mobility at the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, for his reaction.

If fossil fuels are going to remain a part of the energy mix for the forseeable future, then should we be investigating ways to clean up carbon emissions through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies? We had a comment sent in from Giovanni, suggesting that governments should be providing “incentive mechanisms (including investment in research and development)” to support this goal.

Arguably, though, doesn’t this raise the same concerns that Shaun pointed to earlier? Should governments really be spending public money on subsidising green technology whilst we’re in the middle of an economic crisis? Shouldn’t these technologies be able to survive unassisted? We took this question to Graeme Sweeney, Chairman of the Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP), an organisation that supports the use of CCS, for his response:

In the case of Carbon Capture & Storage, a common argument against the technology is that it will arrive too late and cost too much. Whilst the EU has a demonstration programme that intends to deliver up to 12 projects, there are currently no commercial scale projects operating anywhere in the world using CCS. Given the timeframes involved, is CCS really a viable solution?

ZEP’s cost reports, published last year, have clearly shown [that] CCS will be cost-competitive with other low-carbon technology. A secure investment environment, anchored by the Emissions Trading System (ETS), is essential to deliver CCS: EU demonstration projects will yield early commercial projects by 2020 on the way toward widespread deployment by 2030. In other words, there is no margin for delay.

Attempting to tackle our CO2 emissions without CCS will ensure we are indeed too late in reaching our emissions reduction targets… despite the higher price tag!

Perhaps energy efficiency might be a better solution? We had a couple of comments sent in along this line, first by Larch, who argued that: “Europe can be 100% self-sufficient in energy, and this needs to start with massive reduction in the amount we consume; through taxation of fossil fuels (and extra support for those at risk of energy poverty), investment in energy efficiency, and renewables – in that order.”

Another commenter, Breffní, strongly supported this position: “We need to move away from the over-simplistic “supply and demand” model of planning and start thinking outside the box. We should be asking are there alternatives to using energy in the way that we do?”

We took these comments to Malcolm Keay, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, to see how he would respond.

Biofuels have been growing quickly as a fuel source; in 2010, biofuels provided 2.7% of the world’s fuels for road transport. Supporters see it as a way to both mitigate dangerous climate change and to reduce dependence on imported oil, but there are also critics. The European Environment Agency, for example, has warned of some of the drawbacks: “If bioenergy production replaces forests, reduces forest stocks or reduces forest growth, which would otherwise sequester more carbon, it can increase the atmospheric carbon concentration. If bioenergy crops displace food crops, this may lead to more hunger if crops are not replaced and lead to emissions from land-use change if they are.

We had a comment sent in from Peter, who argued that it “took some 15 years for biofuels to represent +/- 3% of our energy package” and  wondered what “damage or risks does it cause [such as] increased food challenges?

Some time ago, we spoke to Dan Jørgensen, a Danish Social Democrat MEP and Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and asked him to respond.

I think we need to enforce really strict sustainability criteria [for biofuels], incorporating both social and environmental criteria. We also need to encourage work on second generation biofuels that don’t use crops themselves, but rather use what would otherwise be considered waste products. So, for example, waste from slaughterhouses, which would ordinarily be thrown out or destroyed, is now being made into fuel for cars. Such technologies could potentially have a part to play in a more resource efficient world, and help reduce CO2 emissions.

What do YOU think? What should Europe’s energy mix look like over the coming decades? How can Europe avoid an energy crisis and secure clean, reliable and cost-effective energy for the future? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions.

59 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Hydrogen. Of course all solar, wind,geothermal, sea waves, nuclear, gas and petrol will be used as well, but Hydrogen will be the future.

    • avatar

      Hydrogen is not a source of energy – it is a way of storing energy.

      Today hydrogen is produced by burning natural gas – but it can also be produced directly with renewably generated electricity, at high cost through electrolysis (low conversion efficiency).

      Hydrogen then isn’t a solution to any source of energy crisis. We still have to find viable non-fossil-fuel sources of energy.

      What hydorgen is, is one possible mechanism for fuelling road vehicles. But that’s one among alternatives: road to vehicle transmission of power, (replacable?) batteries, supercapacitors, superconductor-based storage, natural gas, biofuels, etc. Among this mix, hydrogen is presently one of the least competitive ideas (though that could easily change, and all routes deserve R&D).

      (Like the other routes above, ability to vary rate of hydrogen manufacture would also provide an option for load balancing – and in that sense, like the other options above, could help solve one particular energy problem too.)

  2. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Unfortunately Europe needs based of fossil energy resources exactly and it has not them like China, as different from US with Russia. Actually that is the reason of current of economical crisis. Europe might overcome only high technological production like Apple.

    • avatar

      Yet Russia is increasingly European – socially, politically and economically.

      There is no obvious problem in pursuing deep economic integration with Russia, Turkey, Central Asia and the North of the Mediterranean – inclusive of energy trading.

      Yes, it exposes Europe to potential for political instability, and we need to be diversified enough to bear that risk. But this high level of mutual dependence and integration plays a large role in building prosperity and achieving social & political progress in Russia, etc.

      On the second point you note, you’re quite right – Europe is phenomenally successful in services & high tech development and export. From the lithographic machinery that makes the world’s CPUs, to the designs of CPUs & GPUs, etc, to cars to airplanes to helicopters to manufacturing robots to chemical processing to pharmaceuticals, etc – Europe leads the world in many areas.

  3. avatar
    Georgi Hrisstof

    It is true that the supply system of Europe is a political place, not stable. Well that is secured by more than one source, which does not allow and dictate prices and terms. Investments in clean energy with no hazardous waste, and technology are the key to a bright future.

  4. avatar
    Cristina Pittarello

    Europe, in this case, the European Union is facing, since 2008, a challenge that is not only an energy but also an institutional crisis, or rather, the fact that erupted so violently the energy and economic crisis in recent years has put under the magnifying glass the institutional apparatus of the entire European Union, thus highlighting a problem of relations between the Member States and the EU itself. Regarding specifically this question under exam, I think the only solution is to completely reform the entire EU energy policy: that is, although it has witnessed in recent years an attempt to “cohabitation” of Community interests with those of national energy policies, the European Union is still to be far from achieving the objective of completing the internal energy market, objective suspended by the recent economic crisis. The completion of an internal energy market will help to better face future energy crisis, it will help the entire European Union and its Member States to play a greater role in the international trading. By having an internal energy market will mean to have a single voice: in this way, the European Union will be able to avoid the direct effects on the economy of a future energy crisis. So, the keywords are: diversification, sustainability and innovation. Diversification because the European Union needs to reduce the import rates of oil, by raising the percentage of using alternative energy resources: however, diversification not only for energy resources but also for energy suppliers which, most of the time, come from outside of the European Union. Sustainability because the European Union needs to reduce the rate of air pollution, under the Accordance of Kyoto: the use of alternative energy resources must be sustainable from an economic point of view. This means to reduce the costs of producing this kind of energies. Innovation because the European Union needs to be more competitive but also it must become a sort of model for those countries (like China or India) which are imposing their own economic interests.

  5. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    The energy mix as such will not be the cause of an energy crisis. Rather the lack of a functioning smart grid. The internal market urgently needs to be a fact and hence national governments will have transfer sovereignty now.

    • avatar

      You’re certainly right in part:
      – smart grids (demand control; long distance transmission across borders; diversified local, regional & continental sources; efficient markets for load balancing) are certainly necessary.
      – intergovernmental collaboration, organization & coordination is clearly necessary here

      On the other hand, “transfer sovereignty” sounds a little bit crazy/ dangerous/ so extremely unpopulour as to eliminate all prospect of progress. Implementation requires a shift of language and a different model. Principles to observe:
      – all energy investments (e.g. new power plants, new transmission lines, etc, have to have local concent – anything else is asking for popular vitriol)
      – we must maintain a national veto on any investment project. This can simply mean complete transparency, advance notice & the option for national governments to block & trigger a summit. But ultimate national veto rights (even if we create strong disincentives to exercising these rights) is crucial for this to be acceptable. Shifting policy making and implementation to a supernational body is well and good providing it is constrained by & sensitive to local opinions, but there must be no transfer of sovereignty.
      – so far as possible, coordination should try to establish frameworks and standards, suppting the creation of competitive markets, in a manner that is adaptable & sensitive to the emergence of new technologies, shifting relative scarcity and potential for higher productivity
      – ultimately, any supernational cooperation has to respect the desires of some countries (e.g. Germany, Austria, Italy) to eliminate nuclear domestically, while fully exploiting the potential of (green & cheap, whatever the attempts at building stigma) nuclear in countries which are more welcoming (e.g. France, Bulgaria & Finland).

    • avatar
      Peter Schellinck

      Allow weaker countries with high debt and/or regions that want more local autonomy to exchange sovereign debt for the transfer of federal powers to the EU parliament and institutions and hence start the process of sovereign mitigation to a truly European sovereignty. Once this is done we will still only represent less than 8% of the world’s population, however be recognised as a united powerhouse with lots to offer. Organise Europe in regional clusters for the day-to-day management of the area and introduce a one for all tax regime.

  6. avatar
    John Lefakinis

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  7. avatar
    Mike Scott

    As Friends of Europe’s Energy Summit outlined last week, Europe’s pending energy crisis relates to two not always synonymous challeges – security of supplies and the need to decarbonise. We are struggling out of the deepest recession since the second world war and yet oil prices are still above $100 per barrel. This is because there are supply constraints, the US’s recent success in shale notwithstanding. Our traditional suppliers are either running out of oil or they need more of it for themselves, while there is increasing competition for supplies from China, India and other emerging markets.

    Europe’s indigenous energy resources are mostly renewable, so we need to make the most of them. New finds such as gas from the Levant Basin, and to a lesser extent, shale gas will help reduce reliance on outside sources of fossil fuel but renewables are where it’s at in the longer term. The roll-out of renewables has been a success but now the physical and financial infrastructure needed to support them needs to catch up. We also need to make the entire economy more energy efficient – there is huge potential to do this at low or no cost that households and businesses are failing to take advantage of.

    Among the solutions raised at the summit were a) stronger grids b) a stronger cabon market c) better interconnections between countries d) a single integrated European energy market.

    Stronger grids are coming, but they are going to have to fight their way across Europe in the face of the objections of people who don’t want developments in their backyard (but who do want cheaper energy). Better interconnections are also under way and when they are commissioned they may create de facto integrated markets that could force the issue politically – but they will come up against national governments reluctant to cede any control over their own power systems, as appears to be the case in France.

    The key stumbling block seems to be a functioning carbon market that actually incentivises the rapid roll-out of locally-based, low-carbon energy sources and efficiency measures. Yet that seems a long way off.

    These are all short-term concerns, though. In the longer term, the price of renewables will continue to fall both in absolute terms and more importantly in relation to fossil fuel prices. Energy storage will transform the energy landscape, not just allowing the integration of renewables but making all other forms of generation run more efficiently. Alejo Vidal Quadras, a Member of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, said at the summit that what Europe needs to sort this out is “a good crisis”. This may well be true. Let’s hope it’s not too painful.

  8. avatar
    Matija Jeras

    there should be an order for all countries sent from european commision that every year every country should invest 80 procent of all money meant for energy investments into green investments. In slovenia, the government aren’t thinking much about green investments so as i wrote, it should have and european institutions should make them do.

  9. avatar
    Laszlo Nagy

    Hopefully fusion technology will advance in the not-so-far future. And there are new inventions in the field of renewable energy too, like that turbine that makes energy from river flow without dams and such.
    In this field R&D might have some chance to get significant results relatively quickly.

  10. avatar

    Great discussion above – thanks for engaging.

    Economics of rooftop solar:

    Supposing solar voltaic panels go on a Spanish or Italian rooftop, let’s be conservative and say that we only have 6 hours of full generation light equivalent on the average day. Let’s also take a 25 year guaranteed performance at 80% stated installed capacity. Then for each Watt of installed capacity, we have expected generation of 0.8*6*365 = 1.752 kWh/ year. That gives a lifetime generation of 43.8kWh for each Watt of capacity.

    If we suppose a consumer price of domestic electricity at €0.10 / kWh, each and if we discount at 6% annually, the lifetime output has a present value of €2.47 per installed Watt capacity.

    These guys alone are able to sell 380 MW in panels each year, at €0.43/ Watt capacity (plus shipping & tariffs).

    So, if we can reduce the shipping, tariff, finance & installation cost of solar roof panels to under €2.04 per Watt installed capacity (€2.47 minus the €0.43 manufacture & purchase price), then Europe can already deploy rooftop solar power at massive scale (especially across Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Southern France and French Guiana – but also Europe wide) without drain on public funds.

    Necessary measures:
    Shipping & tariffs)
    Eliminate all import tariffs on solar panels, and drop all anti-dumping disputes. We’re happy to receive cheap solar panels & expand green energy generating capacity. Really, if China is subsidising solar panels for European consumers, that’s a very good thing! Saves our taxpayers, but helps reach our green objectives & improve resilience of energy generation. Eliminate all tariffs on renewable energy capital equipment – now.

    The obvious model is that banks should fund the complete installation, and be able to provide low interest loans because (1) home owners will be able to service debts from reduced energy bills and still have profit to spare, making this a safe investment and (2) the solar panels themselves are good collateral – they’ll typically be worth more to hom-eowners than the outstanding debt. So, banks should easily be able to provide low-rate finance to most home-owners (in the order of 4-6% annually).

    Here, European governments might consider providing 3 year loan guarantees, to ensure that low rates are available to home-owners even without down-payments; when guarantees expire (3 years after installation) all home owners will have already build the equivalent of a large donw-payment in the panels, making low interest refinance universally available without further subsidy (efficient use of scarce public funds).

    Since the most relevant states are also the most distressed, and especially given the green credentials at stake here, this might be an investment project that can draw on support from other European countries (though probably outside the general EU budget).

    Deregulate installation – it doesn’t require a qualified & regulated electrician (that just inflates cost and obstructs green energy). Instead, just run a public contest (with cash prizes) for electricians to upload video tutorials from live installation & wiring of panels.

    Tying it together)
    Have cash prizes to encourage tutorials on every part of the process of fitting roof panels in local neighbourhoods: on registering as self employed/ starting a small business, on procuring panels, having them shipped, having them trucked to site, on renting warehouses, on finding customers, on training installers, on accessing & providing finance to clients, etc. With just a tiny dollop of public funding, build up a collaborative online community to support ordinary people in deploying solar panels at minimal cost.

    In Context)
    While all of the above measures are urgent – requiring immediate action by the European Commission (on tariffs), national governments (installation regulation) and new intergovernmental cooperation (provision of finance, sponsoring of online tutorials) & civic action, it is certainly attainable and worthy of our effort. Cheap green consumer energy means greater prosperity, fewer greenhouse gasses and greater energy security.

    While roof solar could provide more than 20% of EU electricity within 20 years, that would still require substantial load balancing support from electric grids. There, there must be emphasis on cross-national interconnectors, expansion of hydroelectric where possible and on expansion of a proper gas pipeline network in Europe (yes, natural gas is the best friend of renewable energy).

  11. avatar

    A broader point: the goal shouldn’t be to gain energy independence from Russia. The goal should be to fully engage Russia in Europe, and eventually to integrate Russia in Europe as with the rest of Eastern Europe.

    That seems to be what younger Russians (the post-Soviet, post-Internet, less nationalist & more liberal generation) want.

    In time, we can realistically hope that Russia will come to achieve far greater transparency & accountability, European standards of protection for citizens & liberty, and for Russia to fully integrate in the European & global economies. Not to mention little things like deep securtiy cooperation & mutual defence with the EU, mobility of citizens & businesses across borders, and perhaps even full EU membership eventually.

    Russian people deserve the same freedom & prosperity that Western Europeans enjoy. Supporting Russia in pursuit of this isn’t just morally right – it’s also in our security & economic interests.

    How far we move down that path is uncertain, but move down it we must. And part of that probably involves willingness to be heavily dependent on Russia for energy and natural resources (not just natural gas – for instance, Russia also has awesome untapped hydroelectric potential).

    Certainly, Europe must pursue rapid expansion of renewable energy (at minimal cost to taxpayers). But at the same time, we need to shut down coal plants and shift to natural gas. We must not let “energy security” fears get in the way – the shift from coal to gas has the potential to make a bigger contribution to emissions reductions than renewables plus efficiency savings combined in the next 10 years (especially in Europe’s worst pollutors, such as Germany, Netherlands, UK & Poland).!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=en_atm_co2e_pc&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:DEU:NLD:POL:ITA:FRA:GBR:ESP:SWE&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    Further to which: renewables need load balancing to be viable, and we only have four forms of load balancing:
    1) a vast grid able to obtain power from other geographical locations – we don’t really have it, and it’ll take a long time to build such a thing
    2) real time pricing/ communication with consumers & demand control – turning off appliance chargers, computer servers, factories, lights and devices when supply falls. The infrastructure isn’t there, and consumers might not tolerate the inconvenience.
    3) hydroelectric – by far the best solution when it’s available. Sadly, it often isn’t available on a sufficient scale. There are many potential projects that really need to go ahead (stamp out fossil-fuel-worshiping NIMBYs).
    4) a robust network of natural gas pipelines & generators, able to fire up when there’s a supply shortfall or demand surge, but also able to shut down as soon as there’s no need to operate.

    New energy storage or load balancing solutions might become viable in future decades, but right now the focus has to be on expansion of gas networks (& killing coal) and investment in hydroelectric wherever there are opportunities. That has to be the basis for rapid expansion of renewable power generation.

  12. avatar
    catherine benning

    How you avoid an energy crisis is to nationalise all energy companies. Then you will see the crisis will simply melt away.

    Crisis are largely created and encouraged by Corpporations wanting to increase their already phenominal profits in order to remove those profits from European state taxes and place them in off shore tax free havens.

    Nationalisation would therefore kill many birds with one stone instantly.

    • avatar

      Catherine Benning,

      If only life was so simple!

      You would probably help yourself by looking at a few of your assumptions, both trying to justify them & trying to find conflicting evidence/ counter-examples. In particular:
      1) “Crisis are largely created and encouraged by Corpporations”
      2) “you will see the crisis will simply melt”
      3) “Nationalisation would therefore kill many birds with one stone”

      Here are a few comments (though you really have to explore the soundness of these considerations independently & honestly, using many sources):

      “Crisis” is not well definied – particular topical problems include high greenhouse gas emissions, high levels of urban air pollution, high cost, dependence on oil/gas imports from potentially unstable places like Libya, Iraq, Iran & Russia, etc. I would contend that all of these problems are mostly “real world” problems – caused primarily by technology, scarcity of resources and natural endownments rather than by business decisions or energy markets.

      There are institutional changes, large investments or structural changes that might help mitigate these real world problems, but there’s no reason to expect broad nationalization to make them go away. Indeed, nationalization means that we have to build a skilled & competent set of civil servants able to innovate, invest in the right technologies, make the correct structural changes, manage resources well, etc. In principle or in theory you might think this is possible – but take a closer look at what tends to happen in practice.

      In particular, given that there are many real problems faced in energy industries, will a new bureaucracy successfully solve all of these problems? Instantly, overnight, just “melt away”? Or at all?

      Nationalization might kill many birds – for example, Soviet monoculture agriculture (with fields bigger than anything you’d see even in the US or Brazil today; with excessive use of pesticides & fertilizers) successfully exterminated vast bird populations.

      Bureucratic structures for economic activity can sometimes be the best solution. I’d contend that this is rare – bureaucratic solutions often fail to adapt to changing technologies, and tend to ratchet costs ever upwards with no competetive pressures to restrain waste. More often, bureaucratic structures can be part of the solution – but must be transparent, open to consultation and avoid power concentrations or creating entry barriers.

    • avatar
      catherine benning


      Well, from my point of view you are dragging your feet because the word nationalisation, like a lightening rod, is causing you to feel production and nationalisation are one and the same.

      The energy business isn’t a conventional industry it is a distribution system. It creates nothing. And as a result we must boot out those who exploit it. Energy suppliers are simply middle men taking 100% mark up on essentials.Nnatural resources should not be subject to profiteering by gangsters, which is what is happening. And I belive you are not looking at it from a realistic platform.

      You claim that a burecracy would create mayhem. Would it be any more mayhem that the current system? I don’t think so. And the emoluments of the players would be greatly reduced meaning a lot more investment could be spent on research and exploration. Not filling the Caymen Islands with off shore European money that belongs, in reality, to the tax payers.

      You have to take the eye off your profit margin and begin to think of social expectation and fulfill that need.

      There should be one ‘not for profit Euro energy” as the resources belong to us all. And as a nationalised entity, it could be better looked after and adjusted to the changing planet conditions that are required. Which would stop, once and for all, those who try to deny the true movement in our environment and do it to the detriment of us all.

    • avatar

      There’s certainly some truth in what you’re saying.

      Energy production and energy distribution are two very differrent activities. Sticking to energy distribution (which seems to be your focus):
      – how should the distribution infrastructure be designed, maintained, extended and modernised? What needs to change?

      – how can coordination with consumers best be designed and prices best structured to cover the fixed costs of maintaining the network, without charging above reservation prices for individual clients or consumers?

      In a sense, I’m quite attracted to the idea of nationalizing distribution systems – just because it needs quality coordination & communication with road builders, urban planners, etc – and because market making does open too much potential for rent extraction & supernormal profit.

      On the down side, the civil service (in the UK especially) has an awful track record on communication – civil servants don’t talk to each other within departments let alone between them. It isn’t at all clear that a nationalized system could be made to work better than what we have now.

      In context: the UK (with the most privatised & diverse distribution markets) has the lowest domestic gas and domestic electricity prices in Western Europe. And the UK probably has one of Europe’s more robust markets for load balancing over the network (e.g. we brought on lots of extra capacity to sell electricity to France when the French grid was failing in Winter 2010).

      Perhaps a nationalized distribution system would work better – but we have to have a good framework, good concepts, and a well specified system with evidence that it would do better than what is already established. If you want to set up a community site & start debating & planning what this might look like, I’d be interested in contributing.

      I’m sceptical that a public sector entity would do any better than public firms – but it would certainly be productive to explore this in greater depth.

    • avatar

      And just for clarification:
      – I don’t support tax avoidance & evasion, but those are entirely separate matters to the optimal structure of energy distribution & energy generation industries

      – I don’t support high profit margins, in the sense that I don’t like supernormal profits or rent extraction (economic jargon – it’s worth learning these concepts in greater detail if you aren’t familiar with them). On the other hand, an ordinary return on capital invested is necessary to support further investment, productivity growth, price reduction and wage growth. This is true whether the industry is public, private, business or charity.

      – the true objectives should be productivity growth: adding ever more value (distributing more energy, balancing load better, providing more reliability, connecting new customers faster, causing less disruption to infrastructure, etc) with ever fewer resources (more automation, fewer hours of labour, less need for scarce skills, less need for materials, less need for digging up roads, etc). Nobody supports the pursuit of profit as an end in itself – but pursuit of profit in the context of a sufficiently competitive market is intended as a tool for achieving this. The empirical evidence is that it does work in energy distribution – perhaps we can build a better alternative, but we need evidence that we are right before disrupting the status quo.

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    @ The Moderator.

    Is it not possible, in this modern world, to have an edit button in order to avoid a red face created by these awful errors we make in our spelling and syntax? I am mortified when I see my efforts are not word perfect and the entire world knows it.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Catherine,

      A very fair point, and this is something we hope to implement soon. We have a big update planned, and will be adding a lot of new features, including the ability to flag comments as offensive, better threading of comments and the ability to edit your own comments.

      In the meantime, if you want us to remove or edit a post you’ve written, you can contact us either here in the comments or by email at

  14. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa moderna ou europa do futuro são duas frazes distintas a europa de futuro irá ter que apostar nas tecnologias inovadoras porque a poluição esta a matar o meio ambiente meus amigos os empresários deviam apostar mais nas tecnologias inovadoras e com o apoio dos estados membros da UE porque no futuro os estados da UE terão que respoder aos desafios do futuro olhem para a Escócia este pais já tem investimento garantido nas energias renováveis até a 2020 agora imaginamos o que vai ser a Escócia a partir de 2020 por isso eu comento os empresários europeus devem criar projectos de tenologias inovadoras e serem aprovados pelas estãncias europeias e internacionais

  15. avatar
    José Luís Pinto de Sá

    In the last 20 years, the European energy policy has been driven by two paranoias resulting from past german traumas.
    The first trauma was the lack of oil to fuel the Messerchmits and the Panzer from 1944 on, although Speer could keep manufacturing those machines.
    The second trauma was the decades-long nuclear war scenario when the nuclear ogives of NATO and Varsovia Pact tactical missiles were ready to be exploded on the german territory.
    Because of these trauma, the Union has developed a true paranoic vision of peaceful nuclear power and of the possible lack of fossil fuels. The point is that it is very difficult to develop any reasonable dialog with paranoic visionaries, so what to say?

  16. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Europe can not avoid from the energy crisis.Because they do not have fossil energy sources . Unfortunately only option is nuclear energy for EU. ?f They use the highest technology, perhaps they might save the enviromental also. One hope might be the explorings of CERN too.

  17. avatar
    Θοδωρής ζτ

    Europe has to take advantage of renewable energy! Countries like Greece, Italy, Spain have the advantage of the sun and the solar energy that comes from. Wind energy is a important sector, too! We have to use the best technologies to use renewable energy! Investments also in cars that use hydrogen would be the best solution for saving money from oil imports. We have to change the way we think and find new ecological and cheap ways to cover our needs! Europe has many brilliant minds! Don’t let them unexploited!!!

  18. avatar
    Georgi Tiholov

    If the European commission supports the innovative oriented companies we could avoid the energy crisis.
    Yes, my company has created a lighting based on a LED, but with 75% higher efficiency than the other LED lighting solutions. We spend a fortune doing that and there is no any support from the government, from EU or anyone else. That means the EU should keep on talking about the energy saving, energy efficiency, but they don’t really care about that.

  19. avatar
    Alexandra Stresina

    European commission should support more the innovative companies and should take advantage of Sun, should invest more in new green technology and solar panels. so far so bad….

  20. avatar
    Franziska Rieck

    definitely support renewable energy, accept that resources are limited! permanent economic growth cannot be the target no 1, that can’t be sustainable development.. and maybe Europe should not think only of European solutions – think globally, invest in (global) partnerships and innovative ideas such as the Desertec foundation (

  21. avatar
    George Vakos

    There is plenty natural gas in mediterranean sea, renewable energy sorces in the southern european states as well, such as wind and sun. Europe should get rid of oil imports and nuclear energy. It is high time to invest in wind, PV and natural resources and transport lines to supply the north.

  22. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    ?f Europe are not going to head for a imposible natura come back as a lifestyle similar the films of Akira Kurosawa, the best solution is the nuclear energy for the now.Meanwhile renewable energy resources must improve too. Besides if you did not find the natural gas as a reality yet, anybody should not trust only the expectations. But if the plenty of natural gas finds like Brasil, no problem, sleep well, bye bye.

  23. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Hydrogen! Germany is already studying and improving hydrogen as energy for cars. If cars can run on hydrogen everything can be run on the same energy. And for Hydrogen is enough to have clean water.

  24. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    Vicente, obtaining hydrogen from water is an endothermic reaction. I believe approximately -8 kCal / mole. Where will you get that energy and doesn’t it mean that another process, (like coal, fossil fuel, nuclear) needs to be a part of that process?

  25. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Well I am not an engineer, but once I saw a documentary about Hydrogen and they were showing a small machine that some British company manufactured that would be in our garage. The film were saying there was a protocol with energy companies no to sell directly to final customers. As you say, it is necessary another source of energy and probably that machine was connected to the electricity grid. In many countries, hydro-energy (from dams) is the majority of the produced electricity. In my country is 64%. If we add, the wind generators and photo-voltaic we may overpass the 70%. This means we can save a lot on fossil energy since car traffic is the biggest spender of fossil fuel and the biggest polluters. I know the solution wont be the same for all countries, but we can reduce a lot on our dependence of fossil energy.

  26. avatar
    Hugo Gonzalez de Oliveira

    Europe has a big problem on this particular item, and it is a very complex problem to resolve…. Im on favor of renewable and green investments, but we have to remenber that these are new technologies that still need time to become affordable for the people and more cheaper, and for that we need huge amounts of investment to develop new materials and ake these technologies more efficient. Right now the traditional energy ressources are still the best option unfortunatelly. I would love to have EU using solar wind solutions, but for that we will need decades. The worst problem EU has is the external dependency, and abiove all, the dependency on Russian gas…It may be that the use of shale gas reserves (specially in Poland) will serve to change the energy mix of europe, but we will still have a big external dependency of oil and gas. In a few years, Brazil will become a net exporter of oil and gas, and the USA, because of the huge reserves of shale gas the country has, will become less dependent from external oil and gas ressources (specially from Arabia). I say that we should use the fact that Brazil will become a net exporter of oil and gas at our favour (also because brazilian oil is one of the best in the world because of their qualities) and import it for EU (resolving the problem of the huge dependency from Russian gas). But for that Europe has to use a deep water port to receive it, and create a huge net of oild and gas ducts to transport them trough wholle Europe. The best and closest place for that would be the Portuguese ports (Sines and Leixes).

  27. avatar
    Hugo Gonzalez de Oliveira

    Europe has a big problem on this particular item, and it is a very complex problem to resolve…. Im on favor of renewable and green investments, but we have to remenber that these are new technologies that still need time to become affordable for the people and more cheaper, and for that we need huge amounts of investment to develop new materials and ake these technologies more efficient. Right now the traditional energy ressources are still the best option unfortunatelly. I would love to have EU using solar wind solutions, but for that we will need decades. The worst problem EU has is the external dependency, and abiove all, the dependency on Russian gas…It may be that the use of shale gas reserves (specially in Poland) will serve to change the energy mix of europe, but we will still have a big external dependency of oil and gas. In a few years, Brazil will become a net exporter of oil and gas, and the USA, because of the huge reserves of shale gas the country has, will become less dependent from external oil and gas ressources (specially from Arabia). I say that we should use the fact that Brazil will become a net exporter of oil and gas at our favour (also because brazilian oil is one of the best in the world because of their qualities) and import it for EU (resolving the problem of the huge dependency from Russian gas). But for that Europe has to use a deep water port to receive it, and create a huge net of oild and gas ducts to transport them trough wholle Europe. The best and closest place for that would be the Portuguese ports (Sines and Leixes).

  28. avatar
    Adrian Stratulat

    My humble suggestion on this topic (a first touch, i won’t throw in at once all the arguments i have) would involve focusing on 4 key technologies/aspects:
    1. Improving the efficiency of photovoltaic panels
    2. R&D on the implementation of Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (
    3. Speeding up research in thermonuclear fusion (ITER)
    4. Implementing even more incentives for the development of renewable energy sources – wind power, solar power, geothermal, tidal etc.

    Yours truly,
    Adrian Stratulat

  29. avatar
    Juan Vázquez García

    Europe will probably have to overcome a major economic collapse before it can invest on anything for the future, so don’t make big plans, because it’s not meant to be, darling. Europe and Japan will probably be among the first world economies to experience a major economic cataclysm.

  30. avatar

    well on Europe can avoid energy crisis. of course!
    but Europe, the real, not the Europe of the 27 dwarves.
    continental Europe (geopolitical europe) from the Atlantic Ocean up (not the Urals) the Pacific Ocean. europe can avoid this crisis but also ensure energy independence for future generations. By gradually leaving its nuclear facilities by investing in all renewable energy solutions. with the French example, we now know that the concept of electricity generation “cheap” by nuclear power is a myth. the cost of centrals upgrades and many extra costs of EPR show it to us.
    resources to the east of mainland and investments to the west are sufficient to change direction gradually and finally choosing the path of renewable energy
    investments in order to provide independence and energy self-sufficiency, but not on investments in speculative objectives.

  31. avatar
    Lesley Christensen

    We must aknowledge and perfect those inventions that have already been made to provide us with unlimited free energy instead of playing the role of puppet to those who hold the purse strings and will do whatever it takes, to prevent us from this achievement.

  32. avatar
    Santos Roberti

    For experiment purpose, Virgin’s eco-plane ran only three engine with that fuel & the other three engines were filled with standard jet fuel. In addition the Biofuel-powered engine was using a blend of conventional jet fuel & Biofuel: 80/20 in favor of the regular stuff. In sum 5% of the 49,000-lb (22,000 kg) fuel load consisted of the novelty: a special mix of coconut oil & oil from the Brazilian babassu plant, prepared by Seattle-based Imperium Renewable over the last 18 months & tested by General Electric Aviation in Ohio.”

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  33. avatar

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  34. avatar

    To avoid a serious energy crisis in coming decades, citizens in the industrial countries should actually be urging their governments to come to international agreement on a persistent, orderly, predictable, and steepening series of oil and natural gas price hikes over the next two decades.

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