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Europe's Long Energy Journey

Image result for solar panels on roof

The headline of this post is the title of a new book by David Buchan and Malcolm Keay. The subtitle is "Toward an Energy Union?".

The general theme of the book is that the EU's reforms on energy related issues have so far been inadequate. They have been too optimistic about the consequences of market liberalization and have underestimated the costs that would be associated with cuts in emissions.

The authors spend a fair amount of time on the issue of feed-in tariffs (FIT). These are the deals that member states are willing to offer alternative electricity generators, including for example homeowners who might simply have solar panels on their roof. The payments are determined by technology, and in essence by politics, so kilowatts are not treated as fungible. Though of course once it gets into the grid, a kilowatt is a kilowatt and is indifferent to where it came from.

Feed-in tariffs have proven very popular. Every nation state that creates them finds that it has created a vocal constituency for preserving them:  those homeowners with solar cells on the roof come to rely on that as a source of income and are perfectly willing to agitate for its preservation or for higher rates. This makes the EU a bit of a patchwork.

Lauren McKee has reviewed the book quite favorably here.

McKee concludes her review with reflections on Brexit. Unless it changes course, the United Kingdom will "lose EU funding for energy infrastructure and it may be more difficult for multinationals to work in the North Sea area."

The long journey continues. And as four lads from Liverpool might once have sung, it is a long and winding road.


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