Wednesday, January 6, 2010

North Sea grid: A test case for European leadership

With the new power grid that nine European countries are planning to install in the North Sea, the EU can easily increase the share of renewable energy to 30% by 2020, Justin Wilkes, policy director of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), told Deutsche Welle. It can only be hoped that the EU will indeed raise its commitments and start to be a veritable leader in the development of stable renewable energy sources.

Unlike the Desertec projects in the MENA countries and in Southeast Asia, the project headed by the Commission can produce results within ten years. Its success or failure will be an important milestone for the other two projects. It will show whether the ambitious projects can work or not. The essential questions for success or failure in the North Sea are:
  • will the participating countries fully cooperate, invest their resources and clear out legal obstacles? Or will fearful national politicians maintain a backdoor? (in which case everybody loses according to the prisoners' dilemma)
  • will the participating enterprises and credit agencies make a long-term commitment that can endure setbacks?
  • will citizens be prepared to give attention and donations to the project so that it can become a space for personal investment and personal identification?
  • will the media continue to report about the issue, so that the climate change discussion can maintain the momentum it has at the moment?
If the European aspiration is to be the leader in renewable energy in the world, this project must not fail. Since Copenhagen, the international negotiations are even less of a common effort and even more of a national power game. The Chinese lion has woken and will claim a greater say in global politics. After the soft power approach has failed in Copenhagen, the EU can win back its influence through enormous, astonishing success in its own front yard. The North Sea grid will be a test case: Can European countries unite for the greater good, or will we have another lose-lose situation as in Copenhagen?

Cross-posted on Th!nk about it


  1. EU energy policy is (along with economic policy) one of the most important political issues facing the Union. Whilst member-states (like Italy and Germany) are still cutting bilateral deals with Russia, I don't think the EU will be united on this.

    But you didn't say - are you optimistic about this?

  2. Optimistic - it's difficult to say. The cooperation in energy is a necessity. Non-cooperation is a luxury that we cannot afford. But I doubt that our energy commissioner-to-be will stand out as a leader who could advance this project. I guess it'll just be up to him to disprove the critics.