Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 25 Mar 2014

Dependency seems addictive

Last week, the European Union heads of government met to discuss many urgent matters, not least concerning the on-going crisis in Ukraine and Crimea.  Now, finally, European leaders have begun to consider how to handle the dependency on Russian energy, be it gas, oil, uranium or nuclear technology. And indeed the dependency is high, although varies considerably throughout the EU territory.

Curiously, there are advisors popping up everywhere with desperate cries and even more desperate solutions. There are solutions brought forward:  carbon capture and storage (CCS), exploitation of domestic shale gas, clean coal technology, nuclear energy expansion, some renewables (if we don’t subsidise them much) and, oh yes, energy efficiency.  Every decision maker mentions energy efficiency so it must be gaining currency.  Well, maybe.

Isn’t it amazing that the solution to an addiction to fossils and yesterday’s dangerous technologies should essentially be more of the same – or maybe even worse? Is it not one of the most quoted sayings from Albert Einstein that you cannot solve a mistake by repeating it?

The European Council has effectively thrown down the glove, when it met recently. The heads of Government meeting finally acknowledged and emphasised the central role that reducing wasteful consumption can help relieve strategic gas import pressures.  It may just provide the real catalyst to alter the entire energy debate away from its historic fixation with supply-side solutions once and for all. Paragraph 19 of the communiqué states that, to reduce gas import dependency, “moderating energy demand through enhanced energy efficiency should be the first step, which will also contribute to other energy and climate objectives.”  Council has also called for more work on energy efficiency to be developed by the Commission, including a plan to reduce EU energy dependence by June 2014 and an energy efficiency framework by October 2014.

There are many who are sceptical that Council will really follow through, that it has truly taken energy efficiency to heart and made it the focal point for energy policy, as the eceee and others have called for.  It is now for us to hold them to their word.  We cannot give them a centimetre of wiggle room.  Nuclear is not a cheap or realistic option, more fossil fuels from shale gas or whatever is not a realistic option, CCS is not a realistic option.  And yet some have the gall to call them cost effective solutions. They better buy a new calculator.

This supply side addiction has to come to an end. It is now time for the patient to wake up and realise the folly of his ways.  We have no choice but to build a low carbon society based on a true commitment to improved energy efficiency – a cost effective solution, I might add.  Please look out your window.  If the light is in the right direction, you may see your reflection.  Can you look at yourself and not be committed to change – a change to move forward, not backward.

See also:

Energy security towers over EU-US summit

EU plans to reduce Russian energy dependence

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Hans Nilsson