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"Green" pathway for the EU. The workshop by Dimitrios Mavrakis

On November 6, 2012 a public workshop, dedicated to "green" energy, by Professor Dimitrios Mavrakis was held at the Higher School of Economics. According to the expert, "green" energy development is able to defeat the growing global threat of energy shortages and decreasing living standards caused by the deteriorating environment.

The workshop was organized by the Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies, HSE ISSEK.

Dimitrios Mavrakis
Dimitrios Mavrakis

Professor D. Mavrakis is the director of Energy Policy and Development Centre, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the chairman of the Steering Committee of the Black Sea Regional Energy Centre (BSREC), and coordinator of the Energy and Climate Change Policy Network  PROMITHEASnet, linking research centers and institutions of countries in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea region and Central Asia. D. Mavrakis is involved into research on energy geopolitics, development of regional energy markets, creation of the transcontinental energy corridors and development of effective policy instruments in the field of climate change.

Global challenges as a threat to energy security

At the outset, the expert drew attention of the audience on the nature of rapid changes in the world that gives rise to new global challenges that affect all aspects of human life, and in particular the area of energy security. To deal with them is the issue of human survival that cannot be solved without consolidated efforts of the world community.

According to Professor Mavrakis, one of these challenges is the unprecedented growth of the world population, significantly boosted in XX century. According to the majority of long-term forecasts, the world population will continue to increase, mainly due to the poorest countries in Asia and Africa. These changes are associated with the growth of urbanization, continuously increasing number and size of megacities, particularly in developing countries. Among their implications is the appearance of “clusters” of poor people struggling to survive in an urban environment. Their inclusion in global economic processes inevitably leads to an increase in migration, social conflicts and "acts of desperation" that, in turn, increases the threat of global terrorism.

Another important factor that increases uncertainty regarding to the future of the world economy and of humanity in general is the climate change observed in the last decades. Higher energy consumption leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which causes global rise in mean annual surface air temperature. Despite ongoing debates among experts about the extent of the impact of human activity on climate processes, this problem is recognized by all  uncontrolled growth of energy consumption threatens the world's ecosystems.

At the same time, as the professor noted, energy services are "essential socio-economic conditions of prosperity in both developed and developing countries." For example, energy consumption per capita in the OECD countries averages 5 tons of oil equivalent, whereas in the poorest countries is only less than 1 ton. Three-quarters of the world population consume only ten percent of energy produced in the world, with 1.5 billion people having no access to electricity and 3 billion  to fuels for cooking. Dimitris Mavrakis said that low value of energy consumption per capita characterizes exclusion of poor from the benefits available for wealthy and increases social tensions and conflicts.

Energy and economy should "go green"

With growing demand for energy resources on the one hand and their limited scope and strengthening negative impact of human activity on the environment on the other hand, the concept of "green" economy has become more urgent. As defined in one of the programmes developed by the UN to protect the environment, "green" economy "leads to improved well-being and in the long term to reduced inequalities in the population, as future generations are not subjected to significant environmental risks from the environment".

"Green" power is the essential element of "green" economy. Its implementation requires integration of political efforts aimed both at ensuring global energy needs and environmental protection. It is the "green" energy that is able to satisfy growing demand more effectively and with minimal emissions of carbon dioxide, the expert said. D. Mavrakis exemplified that by estimates of consumption and production of energy from various sources, including renewables, in the present, past and future.

Turning directly to the "green "pathway" of the European Union, Professor Mavrakis identified three main objectives to achieve: stability (active fight against climate change), competitiveness (improving the efficiency of the European energy system) and security (balancing the supply and demand for energy in the international context). To achieve these goals two documents were developed: the long-term EU Energy Roadmap and the programme "EU Energy 2020".

The roadmap milestones were set, as to how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% compared to 1990. In particular, it presents the following measures:

  • creation of safe, competitive and "clean" energy system;
  • conversion of energy saving systems and demand management by transition to renewable energy sources, avoiding use of coal and gas, and use of "smart" technologies and alternative fuels;
  •  changes in the structure of energy markets with new methods of management in the electricity sector, integration of local resources and centralized systems;
  • mobilization of investors;
  • drawing public attention on the problems of energy security;
  • promoting changes at the international level.

 The "EU Energy 2020" prescribes more detailed milestones  of the "green "way" of the EU for the next 7 years, and establishes the following priorities:

  • reducing energy consumption;
  • European internal energy market development;
  • development of the infrastructure meeting the needs of the market;
  • improving technologies in energy sector;
  • protecting energy consumers’ rights;
  • strengthening foreign aspect of energy policy;
  • developing a comprehensive EU energy strategy in the field of international relations.

Particular emphasis in the programme is placed on development of the infrastructure, including the energy supply lines, electricity, creation of the extensive network of dioxide transportation to storage sites, the concept of "smart" grids. "Smart" systems (or smart grids) are energy grids that can integrate the actions of all users connected to it, thus providing a robust, cost-effective and safe power supply. According to forecasts, introduction of these grids by 2020 would reduce annual consumption of primary energy in the overall energy sector of the EU by 9%. Another ambitious plan aimed at combating climate change, is called "20-20-20". It includes: 1) reduction of emissions of an air pollutants in the EU by 20% compared to 1990 levels by 2020; 2) energy production from renewable sources share increase up to 20% and 3) the energy saving rate increase up to 20%.

All aforementioned projects are faced with the problem of integrating national energy systems of the EU members, as well as an adequate level of public support. In particular developed common standards for the European smart grid, improved privacy and security, created regulatory incentives for the use of such systems and continued support of innovation in the energy sector are yet to be done. However, humanity can maintain a high level of technological development and build a prosperous future for all sectors of society only by relying on efficient "green" economy, as Professor Mavrakis said.

In the ensuing discussion, the expert noted that for Russia, with its significant and diverse natural resources, energy-efficient technologies could be of particular interest. They may help to improve the quality of life by improving the environment as well as to open up the possibility to increase export of resources by reducing their internal consumption. According to Professor Mavrakis, joint activities of European and Russian companies in the development and implementation of various "green" technologies, both in Russia and in the countries of the European Union, are very promising.

Prepared by Sergey Bredikhin