Europe needs a common energy policy with the emphasis on security of supply and more openness towards technologies - including nuclear - that can make the region less dependent on energy imports, according to a newly released study from the World Energy Council.
The World Energy Council (WEC)'s study, Europe's Vulnerability to Energy Crises, is the culmination of two years of work to identify the threats leading to potential energy crises, and suggest ways of mitigating vulnerability to challenges such as political pressure from supplier countries or energy price shocks.
The report notes a real need to invest in new generation capacity, exacerbated by Europe's ageing power plants, most of which, which with the exception of gas-fired plants, are at least ten years old. Many are substantially older. However, speaking at a press conference at the launch of the report Johannes Teyssen, WEC vice chairman and CEO of German energy giant EOn, noted that EC climate change policies could have a detrimental effect on investment with regulatory uncertainty and rigid attitudes towards carbon emissions making companies wary of making infrastructure improvements and investing in new plants. "A lot of investment projects have been cancelled in the last couple of months," he told journalists. The report calls for promotion of fair competition, with prices reflecting the true marginal cost for the whole supply system, to enable newcomers to participate in investing in new capacity. Emissions trading must be introduced globally, or Europe, which has had an emissions trading system in place since 2005, would find itself at a disadvantage.
WEC calls for the level of policy cooperation in Europe to be enhanced, with a more pragmatic approach to policy implementation to build confidence among operators and investors. Each country is strongly encouraged to diversify its energy mix. The report sees nuclear power as a "promising alternative", both to reduce dependency on imports and to help fulfil commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The EU and neighbouring European countries, says the report, should seriously consider including nuclear in their public debate and energy policies, and the EU should take a "firm position" on the option of nuclear re-integration. Noting that public reluctance or local opposition can discourage investment in nuclear and other new power investments, the report calls for a "fact-based" debate on energy issues to be established. "Civil society should be more informed, consulted and integrated into policymaking," it said.
Teyssen described the results as a "wake-up call." He called for politicians across Europe to take note that the region is growing increasingly vulnerable to an energy crisis. "Therefore we call for more openness towards all technologies such as renewables, nuclear and coal with a carbon capture and storage option that can make Europe less dependant on energy imports," he said in WEC's press release.