Divergent Energy Paths within the European Union

M.D.L.E. Mata Perez, Daniel Scholten

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientific

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The Energy Strategy and Energy Union call for secure, competitive, and sustainable energy in the European Union (EU) and set ambitious goals for greater energy efficiency and deployment of renewables in the coming decades. By 2030, for example, the EU should rely on renewable sources for 27% of its energy mix. Achieving this and other targets will require all Member States to embrace renewable energy and lessen dependence on fossil fuels (domestic and imported). However, it appears that divergent energy paths are emerging within the EU.

There are considerable differences in the speed and motivation with which Member States pursue an energy transition. Some EU Member States strongly promote renewables (Germany, Denmark) while some actively resist (Poland). Moreover, some have a geographical head start (Austria, Sweden), while others are lack favorable conditions, finance, and know-how (Hungary, Slovakia). These differences both reflect and lead to divergent national energy security interests and energy (foreign) policy strategies. For example, pro-renewable countries perceive the energy transition as an industrial opportunity that simultaneously diversifies their energy portfolio and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. For these countries, European cooperation is a means to tackle these challenges together. Other countries, however, perceive the efforts of their greener neighbors as a nuisance that challenges security of supply and brings grid problems and price volatility without any additional revenue or employment benefits. In recent years, these divisions have increased rather than lessened.

The divergent energy paths that are emerging threaten to undermine the Energy Strategy and Energy Union. What makes the matter additionally politically sensitive is that the divergent paths seem to run along a West-East axis. While many Western-European countries coordinate for the system integration of renewables, many Eastern European countries try to block renewables’ negative effects. The EU’s energy transition goals may thus exacerbate the strains between West-East, particularly with regard to energy relations. If the European Commission is to ensure the success of the Energy Strategy and Energy Union, it will need to find a way to prevent, mitigate, or mediate potential challenges whilst harnessing the opportunities of renewable energy.

This paper investigates how the different speeds of the EU energy transition and related divergent energy security perceptions among Western and Eastern EU Member States affect European energy relations and what the European Commission can do to prevent, mitigate, or mediate potential strife. Our focus is on contemporary developments and how they may shape the coming decades.
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDivergent Energy Paths within the European Union
PublisherECPR Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventECPR General Conference - Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 22 Aug 201925 Aug 2019


ConferenceECPR General Conference


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