The European elections reveal more important issues for energy than one might think at first glance.
Europe is at a crossroads.
On the one hand, voters think that Europe has no political project, no economic project, no societal project. The desire to push back its borders by integrating new countries, to shield them from a possible Russian influence, increases the heterogeneity of the member countries, their needs, their aspirations and makes it more difficult to lead. It is not surprising in these circumstances that Europe is perceived as cumbersome, complex, that some people are turning away from it and that political movements are mobilizing voters against them.
In this Europe, energy does not escape the rule. By a very technocratic and highly structured approach, European energy policy is almost reduced to quantified objectives. Some collaborations focus on the areas of research and experimentation but, as soon as decisions and actions are on the agenda, we refocus on our national scope.
I am always very surprised by the lack of knowledge of my customers about the progress already made by their European neighbors and the benefits they could derive from it.
On the other hand, the US, and the countries led by leaders and governments of the same movement, leaves Europe an immense free field. Part of the global leadership has been abandoned. Their stakes are shrinking on very short-term considerations, but those, which are so important for us, of protecting the environment, combating climate change and preserving biodiversity, are being relegated to the background. However, these important stakes are carriers of values and a vision of the world that could give new impetus to economic and societal projects.
In Europe, most national governments, locked in very local logic, have not taken the measure of these stakes. Why let China occupy this free space?
The forthcoming European elections offer daring candidates the opportunity to propose a different project, placing at the center of politics the protection of our planet with all the consequences and benefits of this orientation in terms of public health, dietary habits, agriculture, employment, industrial dynamism, transport and, of course, energy.
I am convinced that in the field of energy, the Europe of energy is just as indispensable as the development of more local dynamics, in the cities for example.
Such a project at national level would, of course, be welcome, but its proposal at European level would ensure more sustainable results and more in-depth action.
Such a project would lead to major transformations in the world of energy: a reinforcement of European structures and entities (at the level of regulators, transport or distribution networks), greater stimulation and commitment of cities and regions, gradual evolution of the role and mission of historical actors, greater adaptation of public policies to geography, the different needs of households and economic actors, the legacy of history.
Can we really solve the climate equation without profound transformation? We have to mourn our achievements. Like every mourning, it will be painful and frightening, but it will lead to a hidden gift: perhaps a revitalized economy, more peaceful societies, in short, what can be the foundations of a true European project.
Let’s take advantage of the space that has given us today: it will be ephemeral and the next opportunity to make Europe shine is likely to be long overdue.
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Eric Morel is a worldwide recognised expert of energy transition and digitalisation. In the past, he has served as VP Corporate Business Strategy and VP Global Smart Grids and Energy Efficiency at Schneider Electric as well as CEO of Ilevo, a telecommunication start-up. He is a founding member and a former Board member of the Gridwise Alliance, the main professional private/public association dedicated to Smart Energy.