Consensus, contradiction, and conciliation of interests: The geo-economics of the Energy Union

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Thomas Sattich

Daniel Scholten, Assistant Professor, Delft University of Technology

Inga Ydersbond, Ph.D fellow/student, University of Oslo

Tor Håkon Inderberg, Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute


European Union energy policy calls for nothing less than a profound transformation of the EU’s energy system: by 2050 decarbonised electricity generation with 80-95 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, increased use of renewables, more energy efficiency, a functioning energy market and increased security of supply are to be achieved. Different EU policies (e.g., EU climate and energy package for 2020) are intended to create the political and regulatory framework for this transformation. The sectorial dynamics resulting from these EU policies already affect the systems of electricity generation, transportation and storage in Europe, and the more effective the implementation of new measures the more the structure of Europe’s power system will change in the years to come. Recent initiatives such as the 2030 climate/energy package and the Energy Union are supposed to keep this dynamic up.

Setting new EU targets, however, is not necessarily the same as meeting them. The impact of EU energy policy is likely to have considerable geo-economic implications for individual member states: with increasing market integration come new competitors; coal and gas power plants face new renewable challengers domestically and abroad; and diversification towards new suppliers will result in new trade routes, entry points and infrastructure. Where these implications are at odds with powerful national interests, any member state may point to Article 194, 2 of the Lisbon Treaty and argue that the EU’s energy policy agenda interferes with its given right to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, the choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply.

The implementation of new policy initiatives therefore involves intense negotiations to conciliate contradicting interests, something that traditionally has been far from easy to achieve. In areas where this process runs into difficulties, the transfer of sovereignty to the European level is usually to be found amongst the suggested solutions. Pooling sovereignty on a new level, however, does not automatically result in a consensus, i.e., conciliate contradicting interests. Rather than focussing on the right level of decision making, European policy makers need to face the (inconvenient truth of) geo-economical frictions within the Union that make it difficult to come to an arrangement. The reminder of this text explains these latter, more structural and sector-related challenges for European energy policy in more detail, and develops some concrete steps towards a political and regulatory framework necessary to overcome them.


Despite some areas with well-integrated power systems (e.g., Scandinavia), European electricity supply still has a largely national (e.g., French), or sub-national (e.g., Bavarian) basis. This, however, does not imply that there is no integration: interconnections exist between most neighbouring countries and regions, and in some of these areas the power transmission infrastructure has significant exchange capacity (e.g., Germany and the Netherlands). In sum, the power system in Europe can be described as a heterogenic patchwork of semi-integrated and non-integrated regional, national and sub-national power systems. Power generation, transmission, distribution and consumption in Europe can thus only partly be described as European.

On various dimensions, EU energy policy aims at breaking the still prevalent national rationale in the energy sector, and at convincing actors that the exchange and trade of electricity within national boundaries is no longer an adequate option. Following these EU policies the system of power generation, transmission and consumption in Europe would take steps towards becoming a European one. The basic assumption behind these policies is that the structure of today’s European power system is sub-optimal and further integration development of the European grid infrastructure is expected to create economies of scale and utilise more of the technical capacity seen from a European level. EU energy policy is therefore expected to result in a more efficient power system with less overcapacity but greater security of supply and lower electricity prices. Moreover, it is widely believed that a deeper integrated system is crucial for the integration of more renewables.

Historically, the involvement of the European Community on the field of energy developed only recently. Due to long investment cycles and permitting processes, and interest structures in the power sectors, the European Union could only partly achieve stronger integration. The Energy Union and the 2030 climate and energy package therefore have to be understood as the latest steps of a continuous effort to accomplish deeper integration of power systems in Europe. The successful implementation of these latest initiatives may, however, run into difficulties, as they – just as earlier initiatives – imply a change in location of generation capacity beyond national borders, thereby altering the topography of the existing power system:

  • Market integration, which is the gradual creation of a Europe-wide market for electricity by means of grid integration and common market rules, implies that new competitors to domestic producers emerge, and that electricity companies which are not efficient enough to withstand competition in a European market will get into trouble, while other utilities (including foreign) will be able to strengthen their market position. Moreover, a European power market implies that the interconnection capacity (shortage) along borders will cease to protect domestic markets from foreign competition; a successful EU market integration policy thus increases the likeliness of generation capacity to migrate beyond national borders.
  • Promotion of renewables implies three important changes to the European power system: first, some countries are better qualified to become competitive producers of renewable energy than others. Countries may also offer better incentives for expanding capacity. Second, most new renewable generation capacity will be of an intermittent nature. Increasing the use of this form of power generation in one part of Europe therefore also implies potential growing balancing costs elsewhere. Third, renewable electricity implies distributed generation, and hence allows for a business model that brings together a larger number of smaller generation units dispersed over larger territories. National authorities may therefore decide to keep power systems decentralised in order to protect particular industries from the competitive pressures of European markets.
  • Supply diversification implies two distinct impacts on energy systems in Europe: First, diversification will lead to altered entry points to the European energy system, for example new LNG terminal capacity (e.g., in Central and Eastern Europe) some member states might perceive a risk of losing power generation to regions closer to new entry points, and are likely to oppose further steps in such a direction. Second, stimulating the construction of inter-member state transmission infrastructure is a main part of the EU’s supply diversification strategy, as outlined in the Energy Union communication. Yet increased interconnection capacity would not only increase the ability to secure and stabilise power supplies, but (as in the case of market integration) also contribute to shifts in power generation capacity.

State of play: a European catch-22

Each of the above-mentioned policies has distinct implications for the power sector of individual member states and thus the geo-economic balance in Europe. To protect their (national) economic assets, each member state will assess the impact of these elements of European energy policy on its national power sector; organised interests within the national energy sector on the other hand will analyse the impact of the three policies on their businesses and start to influence the bargaining position developed by their national governments. Implicitly or explicitly, both sides of the still-existing tight state-company relationships will define a position to be taken in EU-level negotiations towards other European governments and the diverse set of actors on the European level. The resulting frictions at the EU-level would be negligible if the balance between winners and losers was approximately equal across member states, and if the regulatory framework established a level playing field and net gains for all market players; yet, not every country or energy company is likely to benefit equally from the changes involved with new EU policies on the field of energy.

If implemented and effective, EU energy policy may increase dependency on the goodwill and the capability of (power and grid companies in) neighbouring states to uphold electricity supply in another. Europe is hence confronted with a ‘catch-22’: on the one hand are the advantages of European energy policy, but on the other the potentially painful adaptations of power generation, distribution and consumption imply risks for the national (power) industry. Existing or future instruments of EU energy policy will have to overcome reluctance to integrate power systems; where these instruments will be needed, and what form they will have to take, largely depends on  variations in member states’ benefits and costs involved with adapting the national energy sector to the ends of EU energy policy.

Taking stock of the various characteristics of national energy systems in Europe is imperative before new EU policies can be negotiated effectively. Moreover, strongly differing political positions on energy-related matters (e.g., renewables, shale gas and nuclear power) between member states need to be identified and systematically analysed. Both the analysis of national energy systems and policies will allow the identification of latent conflicts of interests between member states and options to settle them by means of existing or new instruments of European Union energy policy. Such an analysis of the state of play will ideally help in finding an EU-level energy policy framework capable of overcoming the geo-economic antagonisms that otherwise might constitute a major impediment for the negotiation and/or implementation of new measures and more integration, responding to the questions above. Currently, therefore, three questions need to be addressed:

1.)   Which countries, regions and companies are likely to benefit or lose from the energy transition that follows the EU agenda in the field of energy policy, and in what ways?

2.)   How will these geo-economic consequences affect patterns of consensus, cooperation and conflict between member states at the European level of energy policy?

3.)   Does the European Union have the necessary instruments at its disposal to overcome conflicts of interest, and if not, what instruments could be developed to achieve this?


If policy makers at the European level are to successfully negotiate and implement the Energy Union and the 2030 climate and energy package, they need to find a way to balance the geo-economic frictions between member states caused by EU energy policy. A regulatory framework is needed that is capable of easing geo-economic concerns through transparent governance structures such as co-ownership of grid assets or co-decision making of grid operations, whether between two or more countries or at the EU level. Moreover, at the business level clear contractual agreements between parties regarding energy and cash flows are another means to avoid potential conflict and handle eventualities. Hence, addressing the root causes of conflicting interests is necessary in order to provide institutional means to handle outcomes of EU energy policy that otherwise could be labelled unfair.

The latest developments in the field of EU energy policy do, however, still resemble an eclectic process: the goals are clear, but as of today there is no clearly formulated and fundamental analysis of those geo-economic factors and interests which partly foster, and partly contradict, the implementation of new measures to reach these goals. Issues like the unfinished unbundling process (i.e., of long-established and poorly transparent structures of command and control) or the insecurities surrounding price formation in the renewables sector persist; as a result, the EU’s efforts to stimulate the construction of new (renewable) generation capacity and new interconnectors between member states simultaneously fall short of the possible. Hence, before discussing new EU policies, the will to address those factors that contradict the goals of EU energy policy is imperative. Only then can a fitting framework of measures, instruments and regulations be found that conciliates interests that do not consent.

Thus, in order to reach to reach the goals of EU 2030 and the Energy Union, the will to openly identify and address economic antagonisms caused by EU energy policy is needed. Addressing the three above-mentioned questions is crucial in this regard; however, they have not yet been discussed in full depth by European policy makers and EU-level analysts. In order to come to a binding political agreement, these questions should hence serve as the basis of a systematic and transparent exploration of potential benefits and losses for individual member states resulting from today’s EU energy policy. Only on the basis of such a discussion can the necessary instruments to conciliate various multi-dimensional and more-or-less contradictory private and national interests be identified. Therefore, a high-level group should be initiated that brings together representatives of governments and the energy sector to openly discuss these issues.

Germany’s Energiewende and the Baltic Sea region: Public opinion and systemic interactions

Author: Thomas Sattich

Executive summary

Germany’s energy transition changes the demand for energy on regional and international energy markets. A major share of the country’s energy imports comes from, or passes through the Baltic Sea region, making Germany the area’s main energy importer. Public discourse does, however, not reflect this situation accurately. Imports of natural gas block the view on the importance of other energy carriers. The latter, especially oil and coal, are, however, equally important both as elements of the regional energy system and with regard to Germany’s energy future. This article therefore aims at going beyond the narrow focus on natural gas, and provides a more encompassing assessment of the impact Germany’s Energiewende is likely to have on energy flows in the Baltic Sea region.


In 2011 Germany started enthusiastically into its Energiewende adventure. Since then it became clear that the goal of a nuclear free and carbon-neutral energy system is not to be achieved easily or cheaply. The international implications of the project have not received much attention in the beginning; yet in the energy sector things are per definition interrelated and not confined to the national level. Soon after the phase-out of the first eight nuclear power stations, the country hence saw itself confronted with the international dimension of the latest of its energy policy u-turns. But to the major surprise of the general German public, the idea of a quick nuclear phase-out and large-scale increase of renewables did not turn out to be an Exportschlager (export success).

On the contrary, the focus of countries, such as Poland, Sweden and the Great Britain, remained on coal, gas and nuclear power. Others such as Spain even reduced their subsidies for renewables. But even though Germany’s energy transition causes only little enthusiasm in neighbouring countries, the Energiewende still has repercussions in the international energy system: being Europe’s largest importer of energy, the transformation of Germany’s energy system changes demand on international and regional energy markets. Moreover, electricity flows go through the interconnectors between national power systems, and thus have an impact on the emerging EU electricity market. It is thus very likely that the Baltic Sea region will not remain unaffected by the Energiewende.

The aim of this article is a twofold assessment of 1) the role of the Baltic Sea region for Germany’s Energiewende project and 2) the likely impact of this project on energy flows in the region. A short-term and a long-term scenario could serve as the basis for this analysis: according to Germany’s national energy strategy the nuclear phase-out is to be completed by 2022. At this point renewables should contribute with at least 18 per cent to meet national net energy demand, and with at least 35 per cent to electricity demand. By 2050 these renewables are supposed to increase to 60, respectively 80 per cent (BMWi 2014a). As the Energiewende’s history suggests, sudden turns in Germany’s energy policy are possible. As a consequence, the article elaborates on the basis of a 2020/2022 short-term scenario.

Germany’s energy system and the Baltic Sea region

What role does the Baltic Sea region play in Germany’s plans to transform its national energy sector? The following section provides an analysis of public discourse in Germany. Aiming at an assessment of those issues that will affect the region’s energy system in the following years, this analysis looks at the Baltic Sea region through the eyes of the country’s energy-interested public. Based on this assessment, the energy system of the region and the likely impact of Germany’s energy system itself is analysed. The focus of this step lies on import/export flows of different energy carriers.

Germany’s energy transition and energy flows in the Baltic Sea region: public opinion in Germany

The significance of a particular region for a country’s energy policy should be reflected in the national media coverage: the more important a particular region appears to journalists and experts to be as a source, supply route, and/or location for energy production of a given country, the more prominent its place in the energy related media coverage should be. Similar patterns should be noticeable in the German case. On the basis of this assumption, the following analysis aims at assessing the relative importance of the Baltic Sea region for Germany’s Energiewende. It is based on a sample of 717 articles from five of Germany’s leading daily and weekly newspapers, covering the spectrum from centre-right to centre left and a time period from April 2005[1] to October 2014: Die Zeit (76 articles), Der Spiegel (63), Süddeutsche Zeitung (206), Die Tageszeitung (90), and Die Welt (282).[2]

How much attention does the Baltic Sea region receive in German debates around the Energiewende? From the sample of articles, 134 mention the term ‘Ostsee’ (the Baltic Sea), that is almost 19 per cent. However, this number shrinks drastically if the search term is amended with ‘erneuerbare Energie’ (renewable energy) or ‘Energiewende; only 33 (4.6 per cent), respectively 26 articles (3.6 per cent) discuss the role of the Baltic Sea for the country’s energy transition towards more renewables. In order to put these numbers – and hence the relative importance German press attributes to the Baltic Sea – into perspective, it has to be related to the prominence of other areas. Since Germany is not only a littoral state of the Baltic Sea, it seems logical to ask also about the prominence of the North Sea and other neighbouring regions in German energy-related press (Figure 1).

Based on the findings of this analysis, aforementioned search results appear in a different light. Even though other countries and regions rank higher on the echelons of energy-interested public awareness in Germany, a nevertheless considerable percentage of energy-related press articles seems to discuss the threats or benefits of the Baltic Sea for the country’s energy policy. It can hence be assumed that the Baltic Sea is considered an area of significant importance for Germany’s Energiewende project by German press (and thus the country’s energy-interested public). Moreover, this general interest in the Baltic Sea seems to increase (Figure 2). Yet the results of this analysis are indifferent with regard to the specific role the Baltic Sea plays in energy-related public debates in Germany; the relatively low number of articles in the year 2013, for example, cannot be explained on this basis. In order to provide a better view, a closer look on the specific targets of the Energiewende is necessary.

Figure 1. Percentage of press articles mentioning randomly chosen countries/regions in Germany’s vicinity and renewable energy / Energiewende


Note: ‘Renewable energy’ (outer ring) and ‘Energiewende’ (inner ring).

According to BMWi (2014a, 11), the Energiewende aims at distinctively changing central elements of Germany’s energy system: On the one hand the share of renewables in Germany’s gross energy consumption is to be increased to 18 per cent until 2020 (60 per cent by 2050); on the other hand, the use of primary (fossil and nuclear) energy is to be decreased by 20 per cent (50 per cent by 2050). In sum these and other measures are supposed to decrease green house gas emissions by 40 per cent in the same time period (80 to 95 per cent by 2050). The electricity sector has to play a fundamental role in this programme, with targets even more far reaching: power consumption is to be decreased by 10 per cent until 2020 (25 per cent by 2050), and full nuclear phase-out is to be achieved until 2022. By then (2020) renewables are to increase to a share of 35 per cent in gross final power consumption (80 per cent by 2050).

Figure 2. The varying prominence of the Baltic Sea in German press


Note: Within a sample 134 articles mentioning the Baltic Sea, only a fraction deals with the subject of Germany’s energy transition: Blue line = number of articles mentioning the Baltic Sea (‘Ostsee’) and renewables (‘erneuerbare Energie’); red line = number of articles mentioning the Baltic Sea (‘Ostsee’) and the ‘Energiewende’.

How does German press reflect these targets with regard to the Baltic Sea? While the percentage of newspaper articles from the sample generally reflect the significance of individual Energiewende targets, the Baltic Sea appears to be a blind spot in this regard: only a small fraction of those articles, which are dealing with Energiewende targets also mentions the Baltic Sea. A look at the different forms of energy explains why: German press mostly reflects on the Baltic Sea region with regard to conventional energies; most important in this context is gas and oil, but nuclear energy and coal also play a significant role. Renewable energy, such as solar, biomass and hydropower on the other hand hardly appear at all (Figure 3). The exception that proves the rule in this context is wind power, as more than a third of those articles that mention the Baltic Sea deal with this form of power generation.

In a first approximation this analysis has examined the prominence of the Baltic Sea in German energy-related press; yet the search term ‘Ostsee’ (the Baltic Sea) is too narrow to include the entire region, that is those countries around the Baltic Sea. A deeper assessment therefore has to include the individual littoral states in German Energiewende-related press. There are slight differences between the numbers of articles that mention the search terms ‘Energiewende’, ‘erneuerbare Energie’ and individual countries around the Baltic Sea; yet all in all Poland, Russia, and Sweden appear to be at the centre of attention, whereas Denmark, Finland and Norway attain less attention and rank second in German press.[3] Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania attract the smallest share of attention.

Figure 3. Number of articles mentioning the Baltic Sea and various other types of energy


Note: Within the sample of 134 articles mentioning the Baltic Sea, the prominence of various types of energy varies considerably.

Thus, a few preliminary conclusions can be drawn: if the prominence of the Baltic Sea in German press is taken as an indicator, it appears that the energy-interested public in Germany attributes only limited attention to this region in terms of the Energiewende targets. The interest is, however, growing. Moreover, by broadening the scope to include the littoral states of the Baltic Sea, the picture changes significantly, with individual countries, such as Poland, Russia, and Sweden attaining considerable attention by German press. Seen through the eyes of the German press, the Baltic Sea region is, however, of limited importance with regard to the primary targets of Germany’s energy transition, that is the reduction of (fossil) energy consumption and the increase of renewables. On the contrary, the German press perceives the Baltic Sea region mostly as a supplier for fossil energy, especially gas and oil, or as the location of conventional/nuclear energy based electricity generation capacity.

A closer analysis reinforces this impression: screening the sample of articles mentioning the Baltic Sea for different search terms to appear in the same section as ‘Ostsee’ (the Baltic Sea), almost two thirds of the results account for the term ‘gas’, while only 18 per cent account for ‘wind’. Hence, not only do most articles in the sample largely cover fossil fuels; the particular sections within the articles that contain the search term ‘Ostsee’ also mostly cover the issue of natural gas which is mentioned. The conclusion of this analysis must hence be that gas largely predominates where public discussions in Germany mention the Baltic Sea region and the Energiewende. Given the Energiewende targets to decrease the use of carbon based energy carriers[4], the following sections can hence be based on the hypothesis that – with the exception of wind power – the Baltic Sea region will lose some of its importance for Germany’s energy system.

Germany’s energy transition and energy flows in the Baltic Sea region: statistical facts and trends

Where the Baltic Sea region is mentioned, it is largely portrayed as a supplier or supply route for fossil fuels – namely gas – by the German press. In comparison, other forms of energy, such as nuclear energy or biomass, hold an inferior position. The construction of the Nord Stream pipeline might, however, have resulted in a place of gas imports in German public discourse disproportionate to its actual role. Beyond, renewables pose a serious challenge for gas-fired power plants in Germany. The role of natural gas might therefore decrease in the years ahead. The Energiewende targets to generally decrease the use of fossil fuels until 2020 and beyond point in a similar direction. In order to provide a clearer idea of the interactions between Germany’s Energiewende and energy flows in the Baltic Sea, this section will therefore analyse the energy system of the Baltic Sea region in more detail. Basis of this analysis is Eurostat data on energy consumption and imports from 2010-2012 (see Annex).

If the territory of the littoral states is included in the analysis, the Baltic Sea region[5] is an area rich in energy resources, with a three years (2010-2012) average surplus of primary energy production of 500.2 mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent). Unsurprisingly, the distribution of available energy resources is, however, highly unequal, with only three countries – Denmark (2010-2012 average surplus of 1.7 mtoe), Norway (2010-2012 average surplus of 169.6 mtoe) and Russia (2010-2012 average surplus of 602.5 mtoe) – showing a positive balance between energy consumption and production. If one compares this (positive or negative) balance with gross energy consumption of individual countries, the seriousness of this situation becomes clearer: with the exception of the three net exporters, the countries of this region do not produce indigenous energy in numbers sufficient to supply the national economies (Figure 4). The energy supply gap of those countries[6] with insufficient access to indigenous energy sources amounts to a (2010-2012) average of -273.7 mtoe.

With an index of -0.613 Germany is to be found amongst those countries that in the region with the smallest basis of indigenous energy. As a result of its internal energy situation and the size of the German economy, the country thus is confronted with a massive (2010-2012 average) energy gap of (-)198.1 mtoe, that is 72.38 per cent of the region’s combined energy supply gaps. 95.3 mtoe – or 48 per cent – of the necessary imports to Germany come from the littoral states of the Baltic Sea littoral.[7] The Baltic Sea region can thus be described as the backbone of Germany’s energy supply, and should be of strategic interest for the country. Given that Germany also accounts for some 24 per cent of gross energy consumption in the Baltic Sea region (including entire Russia), any changes in the German system of energy production, imports and consumption can be expected to affect energy flows in the entire region (Figure 5).

Energy imports from the Russian Federation and Norway play a particular role in this regard, as they account for nearly the totality of imports from the Baltic Sea region to Germany, and hence fill almost half of the country’s energy gap. Including Norway and Russia in the analysis is, however, based on a very broad understanding of the Baltic Sea in terms of geography, as both countries stretch far beyond the geographical limits of that area. This analysis therefore requires a closer definition of the ‘Baltic Sea region’. In this regard it is important to understand that Germany’s national energy system is located at the crossing point of several major Euro-Eurasian energy regions (Högselis, Aberg & Kaijser 2013, 56). German gas and oil imports from Norway, for example, come from fields in the North Sea, and cross that Sea through different pipelines (via Europipe I, Europipe II, and Norpipe); from its entry points to the national German system – located at the shores of the North Sea – Norwegian gas then predominantly supplies areas in North-Western Germany (such as the Ruhr), which, in a more narrow sense, cannot be described as being part of the Baltic Sea region.

Figure 4. Indigenous energy supply of countries in the Baltic Sea region


Note: Red = production of indigenous energy equals national energy consumption; blue = the energy situation of individual countries: negative values = no (use of) indigenous energy (-1) or limited capacity to supply the national economy with indigenous energy; positive values = capacity to fully supply the national economy with indigenous energy plus export capacity (+1 = export equals national consumption)[8].

Source: EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012), EIA (2010-2012).

In the strict geographical sense, Norwegian gas (2010-2012 average of 25003 mtoe) and oil (8.5 mtoe) supply to Germany can hence mainly be attributed to the North Sea Europe region (Högselis, Aberg & Kaijser 2013, 56); they are thus to be excluded from the following analysis. With energy from Russia, things are more complicated, as parts of the transit system are part of the Baltic energy system (Nord Stream, Yamal/Europol), whereas others (e.g. Brotherhood) pass through different regions. However, yearly transport capacities of individual pipelines[9], and actual gas flows in these pipelines[10] allow to infer an estimated 50 per cent of Russia’s gas and oil supply towards Germany passing through countries in the Baltic Sea region. The following analysis thus includes only those 50 per cent of German oil and gas imports from Russia that can be assumed to pass through the Baltic Sea region.

Figure 5. Who causes, who fills the regional energy gap?


Note: Energy deficit (pink nodes: regional energy deficit, see Annex, Table 2), energy surplus (blue nodes: regional energy surplus, see Annex, Table 2), and energy flows (blue arrows: energy exchange, see Annex, Table 4).[11]. Latvia has not been included in this figure. [12]

Source: EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012).

As a result of this, the overall picture of energy flows in the Baltic Sea region changes considerably, and leaves a clearer perspective on the interplay of Germany’s Energiewende with the flux of various forms of energy in the area (Figure 6). Accounting for approximately 79 per cent of energy exports, the predominance of Russia amongst the energy exporting countries remains largely unchallenged in this closer definition of the Baltic Sea region, whereas Norway’s role as energy exporter becomes far less important. Germany’s energy imports from the region reduces largely, to approximately 57.6 mtoe, that is a comparably small 36 per cent share. In other words, the importance of the Baltic Sea region for Germany’s energy sector diminishes if the analysis is based on a strictly geographical understanding of the geographic area.

Moreover, the perspective on different energy carriers as a commodity in the Baltic Sea region changes with an exclusion of Norwegian and Russian sources: while gas is most prominent in the German (Energiewende-related) press on the Baltic Sea region, its actual share amongst those energy carriers which are traded and shipped in the region, is small compared to other energy carriers such as oil and the different forms of coal (see Figure 6). Compared to the flows of oil, gas is only the second most important energy in the energy system of the region, and depending on the share of coal among solid fuels[13] it is likely that gas even ranks third. An analysis of the impact of Germany’s Energiewende on energy flows in the region has to take this limited role of gas into account. Moreover, the place of electricity imports and exports in the region amongst other forms of energy flows has to be noted, as its relatively small share indicates that electricity generation still has a very strong national basis.

Figure 6. Energy flows in the Baltic Sea region[14]


Note: Energy export and import patterns in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in ktoe).

Source: EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012).

The impact of Germany’s energy transition on energy flows in the Baltic Sea region

Its scarcity of indigenous energy resources makes Germany irrelevant as an energy exporter.[15] Regardless of major modifications of Germany’s energy system, such as the Energiewende, this is unlikely to change. As an importer Germany plays, however, an important role in different energy markets. With a yearly average of 57.6 mtoe (2010-2012) of energy imports, 25 per cent of Germany’s total imports of 176.4 mtoe (2010-2012 average) come from or pass through the Baltic Sea region.[16] To put it differently, 36 per cent of the Baltic Sea region’s total energy flows enter Germany’s energy system. The Energiewende will affect this pattern (until 2020 and beyond), yet the question is, how and to what extent. Since Germany’s exports is unlikely to change significantly[17], the reminder of this section focuses on energy imports.

Based on an energy scenario from 2010 (Prognos, EWI, GWS 2010)[18], it can be assumed that Germany’s energy imports from the Baltic Sea region will decrease by 27 per cent to 41.8 mtoe until the year 2020 (Figure 7). In today’s numbers, this implies that Germany remains the largest destination for energy flows within the region, but the country’s share of imports would reduce from 36 to 26 per cent. As a consequence, the region’s combined energy deficit of -273.7 mtoe (see Annex, Table 2) would be reduced by about 15 per cent. In other words, energy demand would decrease. Yet in order to infer from Germany’s national energy policy on future energy flows in the entire region, several factors need to be taken into account, namely economic growth, national policies of neighbouring countries, and energy prices.

Sound and continuing economic growth of Germany’s eastern neighbours, makes it, for example, possible that by 2020 Poland will be the region’s main importer of energy from the Baltic Sea region.[19] In view of relatively large share of oil, development of road traffic and transport could be a decisive factor in this regard, both in Germany and other countries. National policies are very different in terms of their approach to road traffic: while Germany implemented programmes to promote the use of electric cars and increase their number from only 12,156 at the beginning of 2014 (Car Sales Statistics 2014) to one million by 2020 (Bundesregierung n.d.), other countries did not. Depending on the success of Germany’s policy to convince consumers of the benefits of electric cars, oil demand will develop accordingly.

Figure 7. Energy imports of Germany (in mtoe, average 2010-2012, import scenario 2020)


Sources: EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012) and Prognos, EWI, GWS (2010).

Other national policies, such as supply diversification programmes in Poland and the Baltic States – that is increased use of LNG from overseas and of indigenous shale gas, as well as the continued use of nuclear power (in Sweden and Finland) and/or the successful construction of new nuclear plants and the necessary grid infrastructure (in Poland and the Baltic States) – might generally reduce demand for gas in the region (largely gas from Russia). Whether Germany will actually retain its role as the region’s main importer thus depends on the development of German demand for natural gas, bituminous coal, and solid fuels. Their place in Germany’s energy system is, however, very much unclear. The reason behind this uncertainty is to be found at the very core of Germany’s Energiewende project – namely the phase-out of plants suitable for meeting base load requirements and increasing number of intermittent renewables.

Both technically and economically this combination of decreasing numbers of base-load generators and increasing numbers of peaking units such as solar and wind power is a complex issue, and – despite many scenarios and plans – there is no blueprint for a system where decentralised and intermittent renewables largely replace centralised base load plants. Flexible gas and biomass power plants are seen as the ideal technological link between the two elements; yet as the case of Europe’s most recent gas power plant in Irsching (FAZ, 2015)[20], illustrates, investments in state-of-the-art equipment and turbines becomes unprofitable under the economic conditions of the Energiewende: as renewables have priority access to the grid, are growing in numbers, and come with low prices at peak hours, there market for gas and other fossil fuels is shrinking, reduced to periods of little wind and sun. Moreover, gas faces a double challenge, as coal still outcompetes gas due to lower prices.

The development of Germany’s gas imports hence largely depends on the question whether policy makers agree on a capacity market that provides an economic framework suitable to keep gas plants in the system. Such a step is currently under discussion (BMWi, 2014b). Outcomes of this discussion and their implementation will certainly affect Germany’s demand for coal and gas imports. Notwithstanding the results of this political process, the demand for biomass is likely to increase in Germany over the following years, because this form of energy – either used in decentralised plants or in form of co-combustion in existing fossil fuel plants.[21] The share of biomass amongst energy imports is thus to until 2020. Depending on the availability of biomass and the outcomes of Germany debates on capacity markets, this energy source is hence – to a larger or smaller extent – to replace either coal or gas in Germany’s energy imports from the Baltic Sea region.


Against the backdrop of energy imports and exports patterns in Northeast Europe, this article analyses the place of the Baltic Sea region in Germany’s public discussions about the country’s energy future; natural gas imports from Norway and Russia largely dominate this public discourse. The construction of the Nord Stream pipeline is likely to be one of the reason for this highly topical nature of gas in German public discourse; it can hence be assumed that the perception of the Baltic Sea region by the German public is largely distorted. This article therefore attempts to broaden the discussion by expanding the focus of the analysis to include other forms of energy such as coal and electricity. On the other hand, this article attempts to focus on the energy system of the Baltic Sea region in the narrower sense. As Norwegian oil and gas exports to Germany come from and through the North Sea, they are hence excluded from this analysis. And as about half of Russia’s oil and gas exports to Germany pass through Central Europe, they are equally excluded.

The result of this analysis is, that the importance of the Baltic Sea region for the future of Germany’s energy supply is not fully grasped by German public. Individual countries such as Poland and Russia obtain varying degrees of attention, and so do the various forms of energy. But all in all the narrow focus on gas largely hides the role of other forms of energy coming to Germany from or through the Baltic Sea region, and thus the true role of the area for Germany’s future energy system. Taking the bigger picture of energy flows in the Baltic Sea region into account, the role of gas imports from Russia appears overestimated in German discussions concerning the role of the Baltic Sea region for Germany’s energy supply: even though Russia is the region’s main supplier of energy, natural gas is not the most important energy carrier. The focus of German media on this topic hence seems to obstruct the view on other important energy carriers, such as coal and – most importantly – oil, which are at least equally important.

As a response to the growing role of renewables, Germany currently discusses a new market design for fossil fuel power stations. Capacity markets for coal and gas-fired plants will be the likely result of these debates, as backup for the notoriously volatile renewables is needed. As Germany is the region’s largest importer of gas and coal, the design of these markets will largely determine the impact of Germany’s Energiewende on regional flows. The way Germany’s Energiewende will affect patterns of energy exports and imports in the region depends, however, on more factors. The future of the German transport sector will at least be equally important, as oil represents the largest share in energy flows in the region. Widespread use of electric cars could serve as a storage battery for intermittent wind and solar power; in 2014 the German government therefore renewed its support with a broad range of incentives for the use of electric cars.

It remains, however, to be seen whether the customers of the German car industry see electric cars as an attractive option. If they do, Germany’s role as an importer of energy from the Baltic Sea region could diminish largely. In this case, Germany’s place in the energy system of the Baltic Sea region will be determined by the results of current discussions about a capacity market for flexible fossil power stations. Depending on the exact outcomes of these debates, German energy imports could decrease according to official scenarios. In such a case, Germany might lose its role as the region’s main importer of energy. For those countries in the region which have only limited access to indigenous energy resources and hence can only play a minor role in supplying Germany’s energy system, such a development is not necessarily a bad one, as their bargaining position on the regional energy market would improve, especially if they successfully implement programmes to further diversify their energy supply.


Auer J. and Anatolitis V. (2014) The changing energy mix in Germany. The drivers are the Energiewende and international trends. Deutsche Bank Research. Current Issues, June 26, 2014.

BMWi (2014a) Zweiter Monitoring-Bericht „Energie der Zukunft“. Berlin: Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie BMWi.

BMWi (2014b) An Electricity Market for Germany’s Energy Transition. Discussion Paper oft he Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Green Paper). Berlin: Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie BMWi.

Bundesregierung (n.d.) Leitmarkt und Leitanbieter für Elektromobilität. Retrieved from, date accessed: April 9, 2014.

Car Sales Statistics (2014) 2014 Germany: Total Number of Electric Cars, March 29, 2014. Retrieved from, date accessed: April 9, 2014.

CIEP (n.d.) Russian Gas Imports to Europe and Security of Supply. Fact Sheet. The Hague: Clingendael International Energy Programme.

EIA online energy statistics (2010-2012), annual import of different forms of energy.

EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012), annual import of different forms of energy.

FAZ (2015) Energiewende. Irrsinn in Herrsching. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 17, 2015.

Gazprom Export (2015) Transportation. Retrieved from, date accessed: February 11, 2015.

Högselis P., Aberg A. and Kaijser A. (2013) Natural Gas in Cold War Europe: The Making of a Critical Infrastructure. In The Making of Europe’s Critical Infrastructure. Common Connections and Shared Vulnerabilities, edited by Per Högselius, Anique Hommels, Arne Kaijser, Erik van der Vleuten, 2761-101. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

OECD and IEA (2004) Energy Statistics Manual. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development, International Energy Agency.

Prognos, EWI and GWS (2010) Energieszenarien für ein Energiekonzept der Bundesregierung. Studie für das Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie. Basel, Köln, Osnabrück: Prognos AG, Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universität zu Köln, Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftliche Strukturforschung mbH.

Sattich T. (2014) Germany’s Energy Transition and the European Electricity Market. Journal of Energy and Power Engineering, 8(2): 264-273.


Table 1. Yearly energy production and consumption in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in ktoe)

Country Average consumption Average production Balance
DE 322773.17 124684.17 -198089
DK 18875.73 20578.53 1702.8
EE 6149.33 5019.9 -1129.43
FI 35892.37 17173.87 -18718.5
LI 6963.77 1306.27 -5657.5
LV 4514.33 2129.7 -2384.63
NO 30346.63 199960.77 169614.13
PL 99841.07 68491.9 -31349.17
RU 772254 1374802.8 602548.8
SE 50100.53 33757.9 -16342.63

Table 2. Yearly energy deficit/surplus in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in ktoe)

Country In per cent of national consumption In per cent of regional deficit

(-273670.87 ktoe)

In per cent of regional surplus

(773865.73 ktoe)

DE -61.37 -72.38
DK +9.02 0.2
EE -18.37 -0.41
FI -52.15 -6.84
LI -81.24 -2.07
LV -52.82 -0.87
NO +558.92 21.9
PL -31.4 -11.45
RU +78.02 77.9
SE -32.62 -5.97


Table 3. Exchange of energy in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in ktoe)[22]

DE 0 539.7 0 0 0 0 0 1764.1 0 90.2
DK 1760.1 0 0 0 0 0 204.8 28.1 0 4421.4
EE 0 0 0 114.4 0 249 0 0 0 0
FI 68.1 0 0 0 0 0 10.7 0 0 218.4
LI 88.7 0 0 0 0 27.8 0 0 0 0
LV 0 0 89.53 0 258.4 0 0 0 0 0
NO 30943.6 3228.1 0 988.3 0 0 0 1114.9 0 5265.5
PL 222.6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25.8
RU 62056.0 84.1 537.0 14067.2 3542.2[23] 0 828.2 21846.2 0 8959.0
SE 173 489.5 0 611.7 0 0 521.8 141.8 0 0

Table 4. Exchange of energy in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in per cent of regional deficit[24])[25]

DE 0 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0.64 0 0.03
DK 0.6 0 0 0 0 0 0.07 0.01 0 1.6
EE 0 0 0 0.04 0 0.09 0 0 0 0
FI 0.02 0 0 0 0 0 0.004 0 0 0.08
LI 0.03 0 0 0 0 0.01 0 0 0 0
LV 0 0 0.03 0 0.09 0 0 0 0 0
NO 11.3 1.2 0 0.4 0 0 0 0.4 0 1.9
PL 0.08 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.009
RU 22.7 0.03 0.2 5.1 1.3 0 0.3 8 0 3.3
SE 0.06 0.2 0 0.2 0 0 1.9 0.05 0 0

Table 5. Exchange of energy in the Baltic Sea region (2010-2012 average, in % of national deficit of importing countries, see Table 1)[26]

DE 0 n/a 0 0 0 0 n/a 5.63 n/a 0.55
DK 0.89 n/a 0 0 0 0 n/a 0.09 n/a 27.05
EE 0 n/a 0 0.61 0 10.44 n/a 0 n/a 0
FI 0.03 n/a 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 n/a 1.34
LI 0.04 n/a 0 0 0 1.17 n/a 0 n/a 0
LV 0 n/a 7.93 0 4.57 0 n/a 0 n/a 0
NO 15.6 n/a 0 5.28 0 0 n/a 3.56 n/a 32.22
PL 0.11 n/a 0 0 0 0 n/a 0 n/a 0.16
RU 31.33 n/a 47.55 75.15 62.61 0 n/a 69.69 n/a 54.82
SE 0.08 n/a 0 3.27 0 0 n/a 0.45 n/a 0

[1] The first Merkel Cabinet was formed in November 2005.

[2] These articles have been retrieved from the Factiva data base, using a number of energy-related search terms in various combinations. Search Terms used in Factiva data base: Nord Stream, Energiesicherheit (energy security), Ostseepipeline (Baltic Sea pipeline), Ostsee-pipeline, Nord Stream-pipeline, Nord Stream pipeline, Erneuerbare Energien (renewable energies), Energiewende (energy transition), Regenerative Energien (renewable energies), Alternative Energien (alternative energies), Energieunabhängigkeit (energy independence), Gaslieferung (gas supply), Energieknappheit (energy scarcity), Blackout, Atomenergie (atomic energy), Kernenergie (nuclear energy), Nuklearenergie (nuclear energy), Energiesicherheit (energy security), Grenzüberschreitende Stromflüsse (cross-border power flows), Elektrizität (electricity), Strom (power), Phasenschieber (phase shifter), deutscher Strom (German power), grenzüberschreitende Leitung (cross-border power line), Atomkraftwerk (atomic power station), Atommüll (atomic waste), Atommüllendlager (nuclear waste disposal facility), Atomendlager (nuclear waste repository), Schiefergas (shale gas), Unkonventionelles Gas (unconventional gas), Shale Gas, Fracking. A full list of word combinations can be obtained from the author.

[3] Number of articles mentioning ‘Energiewende’ is as follows: Poland (41), Russia (36), Sweden (9), Norway (9), Denmark (8), Finland (6), Estonia (4), Lithuania (1) and Latvia (0). Number of articles mentioning ‘Erneuerbare Energie’ (renewable energy) is as follows: Russia (45), Poland (37), Sweden (20), Finland (14), Norway (12), Denmark (6), Estonia (3), Lithuania (1), and Latvia (0).

[4] Accordingly the need for CO2 neutral prime energy carriers will increase.

[5] In this analysis the following countries are included: DE (Germany), DK (Denmark), EE (Estonia), FI (Finland), LI (Lithuania), LV (Latvia), NO (Norway), PL (Poland), SE (Sweden), and RU (Russia).

[6] Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden.

[7] German energy imports from the Baltic Sea region (in per cent): RU: 31.33; NO: 15.6; DK: 0.89; FI: 0.03; LI: 0.04; PL: 0.11; SE: 0.08.

[8] Norway has an index value of 5.6.

[9] The annual pipeline capacities are as follows: Brotherhood 100 bcm/year; Yamal 33 bcm/year; and Nord Stream 55 bcm/year (Gazprom 2015).

[10] In 2013, gas flows were as follows: Brotherhood 59 bcm; Yamal 34 bcm; and Nord Stream 23.5 bcm (see CIEP n.d.).

[11] Computed with Gephi, ForceAtlas2.

[12] According to Eurostat data, Latvia did not import energy from the region’s main energy suppliers in the time period 2010-2012.

[13] Eurostat does not provide a clear definition of the term ‘solid fuel’ (for a definition, see OECD and IEA 2004, 109).

[14] For the calorific values used for the conversion of Eurostat data on different forms of energy to ktoe; Anthracite 35 MJ/kg; Bituminous coal 29.5 MJ/kg; Lignite 17.5 MJ/kg; and Solid fuel 20.65 MJ/kg (OECD and IEA 2004, 109).

[15] In view of the decision to phase-out economic support for hard coal mining until 2018 (Auer and Anatolitis, 2014, 7), it is even more likely that Germany’s limited role as an exporter will not change.

[16] Note that 100 per cent of oil and gas imports from Norway, and 50 per cent of oil and gas imports from Russia have been excluded from this analysis.

[17] Electricity may become the exception to this rule, as the increased recourse on electricity generation from renewable sources might exacerbate network fluctuations (see Sattich 2014).

[18] The following analysis is based on the average of individual scenarios to be found in Prognos, EWI and GWS 2010 (note: the reference scenario is not included).

[19] Based on a hypothetical yearly growth rate of three per cent, Poland’s energy imports from the Baltic Sea region could increase to a hypothetical 40.5 mtoe.

[20] This ultramodern gas-fired power plant, equipped with a most advanced and efficient turbine from Siemens might be forced out of business by heavy price competition from solar power.

[21] EUROSTAT provides no precise definition of the term solid fuel; the data does hence not allow to determine the share of biomass within this category.

[22] EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012); exporters: left column, importers: top line.

[23] According to Eurostat data, Lithuania imported 11661.9 ktoe of energy from Russia. Given that Lithuania has an average yearly energy consumption of 6963.77 ktoe, this figure appears to contain energy transfers to Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave. According to IEA data, Lithuania exported 8119.66 ktoe to Russia. It can hence be assumed that net energy export of Russia to Lithuania amounts to 3542.24 ktoe.

[24] -273670.87 ktoe

[25] See footnote 21.

[26] EUROSTAT online energy statistics (2010-2012); exporters: left column, importers: top line (in per cent of national energy supply gap); Table shows energy exports (Table 3)/national energy balance (Table 1).

Upcoming event: Chinese FDI in Europe’s energy sector – Blessing or threat?

At the 16th EU-China Summit held in November 2013 both sides announced the launch of negotiations of a comprehensive EU-China Investment Agreement, which has the goal of providing for progressive liberalisation of investment, the elimination of restrictions and a level playing field for investors in each other’s market. This initiative comes at a time of economic challenges for both sides. The first round of negotiations took place in Beijing on 21-23 January 2014, and recently the EU and China reaffirmed their commitment to finalise negotiations as early as possible. Both sides stressed the crucial importance of their trade and investment relationship.

Investment from China in the EU remains relatively small, but the energy sector accounts for a significant share. Chinese companies have invested in infrastructure, generation, manufacturing and R&D. International direct investments by the People’s Republic of China in Europe have increased markedly since 2000, yet until 2010 the total stock of Chinese direct investment in the EU did not exceed €6.1bn – that is less than what was held by India, Iceland or Nigeria. When investors fled Europe in the worst days of its sovereign debt crisis, Chinese companies were also cautious about investment in the EU. But later Chinese companies raised their investments, with cash flowing from China into some of the hardest-hit countries of the Eurozone periphery. By the end of 2012, China’s investment stock thus had quadrupled to nearly €27bn.

M&A has been the dominant type of Chinese investment into the EU: Between 2008 and mid-2014, China sealed more than 200 cross-border M&A deals or joint ventures in the EU. The energy sector is of particular importance in this regard, as almost one third of Chinese investments in Europe went to this sector. Yet according to Eurostat data, in 2012 FDI from China in the EU still accounted for only 2.6 per cent of total investment flows into the EU. By contrast, the share of EU flows of FDI into China makes the 28 EU Member States together one of the top five FDI providers to China along with Taiwan, Hong Kong, the USA and Japan.

Total annual Chinese investment in Europe has dropped somewhat from the peak years of 2011 and 2012, but analysts see new deals in the making and signs that investment will increase significantly this decade. In the past state-owned enterprises, which at home dominate industries such as transport, energy and finance, were the vanguard for China’s outward investment. Investments into these three sectors amount to about 50 per cent of Chinese investments in Europe, although these increasingly come from non-state enterprises. With about one third of Chinese investments in Europe, the energy sector is particularly important, and according to available data will maintain its central role. This investment has occurred across the energy sector, including Chinese companies in electricity grids, wind and solar PV manufacturing and R&D, wind and solar farms and also potentially nuclear power.

This raises both hopes and concerns: Hopes that growing investments in Europe will help to leave the economic crisis behind and bring economic growth back to countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain, where Chinese FDI tend to cluster together. But rising shares of Chinese investors in strategically important economic sectors such as electricity generation, transmission infrastructure and R&D, also raise fears that this could lead to a development that deprives Europe of its capability to steer its economic development according to its own goals such as increasing the amount of renewables or decarbonisation.

With this policy forum we thus want to raise a number of questions about the future of Chinese investments in Europe:

  • How have Chinese investment activities in Europe developed?
  • What drives these investments, and what are their prospects?
  • Which countries and sectors do they go to?
  • What role does the energy sector play?
  • Do Chinese investments in Europe’s energy sector affect Europe’s sustainability agenda?

The expert panel will consist of the following speakers:

Alexandra Koutoglidou, European, Investment negotiator, European Commission, DG Trade, Investment Unit

Duncan Freeman, Research Fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies

Chair: Prof. Dr. Stefanie Weil, Head of China relations Vesalius College, Academic Director Antwerp Management School

Registration & Venue
The policy forum will take place from 12:00 – 14:00 at the premises of the Institute for European Studies. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. If you wish to attend the Policy Forum, please register by filling in the online form.

Karel Van Miert Building
Conference Room Rome
Pleinlaan 5
1050 Brussels
[Map and Directions]

Thomas Sattich (Academic Coordinator)
Associate Researcher Environment and Sustainable Development

Anamaria Bacsin (Logistics)
Communications & Internal Events
+32 2 614 80 40
Institute for European Studies

Russia to Shift Ukraine Gas Transit to Turkey as EU Cries Foul

Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey, a surprise move that the European Union’s energy chief said would hurt its reputation as a supplier.

The decision makes no economic sense, Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president for energy union, told reporters today after talks with Russian government officials and the head of gas exporter, OAO Gazprom (GAZP), in Moscow.

Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas supplier, plans to send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey, fully replacing shipments via Ukraine, Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said during the discussions. About 40 percent of Russia’s gas exports to Europe and Turkey travel through Ukraine’s Soviet-era network.




Gazprom Say Russia Needs To Build Turkey Pipeline Since It’s Shutting Down Gas Shipments To Ukraine
17:07 (GMT)

As of right now a significant amount of Russia’s natural gas travels through Ukraine and into Europe. 63 billion cubic meters of gas travels through this line each year. This supply has been threatened by the conflict in Ukraine, however. In December, Putin announced that Russia was scrapping plans to build the South Stream pipeline, a pipeline which was supposed to bypass Ukraine. TASS reports:

The South Stream gas pipeline worth €15.5 billion was intended to pump 67 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to Europe annually. The pipeline’s underwater section 900 km (559 miles) long was intended to run along the bed of the Black Sea from the Russkaya compressor station on the Russian shore to the Bulgarian coast.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on December 1 that the project to build the South Stream gas pipeline was closed due to the European Union’s unconstructive approach to cooperation in that sphere, including Bulgaria’s decision to stop the construction of the pipeline’s stretch on its territory.

Instead, Russia will build a gas pipeline to Turkey where a gas hub on the border with Europe will be created, Putin said.
Today, however, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has announced that within several years no gas will be shipped through Ukraine. Instead, Russia will construct the Turkey Stream pipeline, shifting that supply through Turkey, and if Europe wants that gas it will need to build a pipeline along the border of Greece and Turkey in order to receive that gas. The Kyiv Post reports:

“They have at the most a few years for this. It’s a very, very tight schedule. In order to meet the deadlines, efforts to build new trunk pipelines in EU countries must begin right now, otherwise that gas will end up on other markets,” Miller said.
Business Standard is running a related headline, “Europe at risk of being cut off from Russia :Gazprom.” The article focuses on warnings from Miller that transit supplies through Ukraine, even in the short term, are at risk:

“Ukraine, due to financial difficulties, was not able to buy the necessary volume of Russian gas in November and December last year and significantly depleted its reserves of gas in underground storage,” Miller said.

Gazprom said for its part that it had met its obligations on supplies to Ukraine under a gas accord reached in November in Brussels but that Ukraine was not complying with its terms.

Ukraine’s state gas company Naftogaz “is acquiring gas in lower volumes than in the Brussels accord,” Gazprom complained.

Ukraine is taking gas out of its underground stores at a rapid rate, leaving supplies that are “not enough to reliably get through the winter period,” Gazprom said in a statement.
While Gazprom’s warning that Ukraine does not have enough gas is likely accurate, Miller seems to be sending a different message – that Europe needs to lessen its dependency on Ukraine.

It also bears noting that at various times in the last several months, Russia has threatened European countries, saying that if they reverse gas flow into Ukraine in breech of any negotiated deal with Russia, then their own gas supplies could be cut off.


Energy Transition in China and the European Union: Plan vs. Incentives?

An event wrap-up with the speakers


Dr. Thomas Sattich

Dr. Steffi Weil

Duncan Freeman

Energy drives economic development. But it is a scarce and thus contested resource. In the struggle for secure energy supplies renewables appear to have become a strategic element, because every country or region, including those with few conventional energy sources, has access to at least some form and amount of renewable energy sources. Renewables thus could be a potential game changer in the struggle for energy resources. Yet some countries are better qualified to become competitive producers than others, because renewable energy sources are denser at certain locations, and the technological and economical capabilities for their exploitation differ.

November 8, 2014, a Policy Forum at the Institute for European Studies explored the role of renewables in the struggle for secure energy supply, and set out to compare the approach of two leading powers in their development: China and the European Union. Renewables are key political issues in the two regions, and both have developed and implemented policies to encourage the use of renewables, hoping that this form of energy will reduce import dependency on fossil fuels and the environmental dangers resulting from their use. The year 2020 is an important landmark in this regard: While policy makers in China recently opened the process towards the next five year plan (2016-2020), the European Union set itself the goal to increase renewables to 20 per cent of energy use by that point.

General knowledge about the topic stops here, and a structured comparison of the issue is largely missing. It is therefore unclear how similar or different the two policies are, and what both regions could learn from each other. In view of the differences between the socio-economic systems of China and the EU, it is, however, evident that the approach chosen for this ‘energy transition’ will differ. It is thus time to compare and discuss the similarities and differences between the approach China and the EU chose for the transformation of their energy sector towards the stronger use of renewables. We therefore set up this event to discuss and compare the approach and the mechanisms both regions chose for the promotion of renewable forms of energy in the energy mix.

In order to contribute to the discussion, the Policy Forum looked at the following topics:

·      What support regimes for renewables have been adopted, and why?

·      What is the role of public authorities on different levels of the political system?

·      What role do leading companies play, and what is their relationship with the government?

·      Are there preferences for certain forms of renewables, and why?

·      Do the targets and outcomes differ, and why do they differ?

·      What are the domestic and global impacts of both policies?

Three renowned experts presented their views on the topic:

·      Dr. Dörthe Fouquet, Energy Lawyer and partner at Becker Büttner Held, and member of a number of umbrella organizations of the renewable energy industry.

·      Dr. Steffi Weil, Assistant Professor and Head of China relations at Vesalius college.

·      Duncan Freeman, Senior Research Fellow at the Brussels Institute for Contemporary China Studies.

Renewables in Europe

As a point of reference for the discussion, Dr. Fouquet’s provided an overview of the complex set of support regimes for renewables in the European Union: Individual member states have different renewable energy potentials and operate different support schemes at the national level. In this environment the European Union developed a framework to coordinate (not harmonise) national efforts with a common EU framework. The most important element in this regard is the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC. This Directive includes common rules for different levels of the political system (national, cooperation between member states, the European Union, and cooperation with third countries) and achieves a considerable level of coordination, yet it also gives member states a relatively broad leeway in their approach to renewables. Each member state can hence still decide what renewables to support (e.g. wind power in Portugal, biomass in Sweden, hydropower in Austria), and choose support mechanisms.

Directive 2009/28/EC provides a binding overall EU target of 20 per cent renewable energy in final consumption (previous Directive: non-binding), and translates this target into binding national targets. National Renewable Action Plans which list pathways and instruments to reach targets are to be submitted; the European Commission considers these plans as binding and needs to be informed about changes. Moreover there are reporting and monitoring obligations in place in order to control progress. However, the Directive allows member states to design effective national measures for target compliance, which in turn enables member states to control the effect and costs of their national support schemes. The European Commission on the other hand has little means for “enforcement”. Recently the European Court of Justice confirmed this level of discretion (Ålands  Vindkraft and Essent case).

The Directive also allows member states to determine if and to what extent their national support schemes apply to energy from renewable sources produced in other member states and cooperation mechanisms provided for in the Directive. These flexibility mechanisms include statistical transfer between member states (which do not include the physical transfer of energy), and joint renewable energy projects and support schemes between member states. In the latter case coordination with the European Commission is necessary. Joint projects with non-EU members (e.g. pilot projects in Morocco) are equally possible; in this case it needs to be assured that the energy produced reaches the territory of the European Union.

In the member states renewable energy law is made through the parliamentary legislative process, which implies a strong role at the national level. In some cases such as Belgium or Sweden there are, however, differences within different regions as regards for example administrative procedures. Moreover, the involvement of ministries and agencies in the preparation of regulations, and the role of energy regulators varies between member states. When it comes to the energy sector, one can observe that 80 per cent of renewables deployment is in the hands of independent power producers (e.g. farms), using local resources to meet local energy demand. These local energy companies are small and widely distributed. Regardless of the fact that bigger projects such as offshore wind farms are in the hands of big utilities, renewables thus counter the historical trend to a centralised energy industry and (together and parallel with unbundling, i.e. the separation of the power grid and power supply) brought new competition into energy markets.

Is this framework suited for reaching the EU’s goals to increase the use of renewables in the energy sector? Most important in this regard is the confidence of investors to regain their investments. This confidence seems, however, to have received a serious blow in recent years in several EU member countries such as Spain. Six EU members therefore are not on track with their National Renewable Action Plans. With regard to the indicative targets (2011/12) for the different forms of renewable energy it is however noticeable, that many countries overachieved with regard to electricity and heating/cooling, whereas most countries underachieved with regard to renewables in the transport sector. In total the European Union therefore exceeded its 2012 goal of 12.87 overall share of renewables by 1.2 per cent points (14.07 per cent).

Renewables in China

With regard to Chines policy on renewables Dr. Steffi Weil presented some first insights on the politico-economic complex of the People’s Republic of China. Obviously there are differences with the European Union. But whereas conventional wisdom suggests that China’s policy-making process is a monolithic top-down process, quite the contrary can be observed in China’s political system. China’s policy procedure is open to a number of actors, and policy formulation and implementation differs depending on type of legislation. Experimental, decentralized policy making for example describes a process in which the Party centre asks local officials to experiment with new ways of problem solving. Subsequently, if the policy proves positive, it is implemented nationwide. Examples of this can be found in China’s gradual market opening, the promotion of private business, state-sector restructuring and stock market regulation.

But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) relies not only on an experimental policy-making procedure. Instead governmental institutions function as policy venues. As such the CCP, as policyholder, assigns much of its policy making power to government at lower levels. To use economic terms, the relationship between the Party and governments can be described as a principal-agent relationship with the Party as the principal and the government functioning as the agent. As a result the Party and the government engage in political bargaining not only between the political centre and the next lower levels, but also between the party and the government on multiple political layers.

The ‘Opening Up the West’ policy is one example of how actors at central, provincial and local levels bargained for their goals. Other examples are China’s gradual market opening, the promotion of private business, and state-sector restructuring and stock market regulation. The policy outcome embraced multiple interests of departmental and regional institutions. Provincial interests were conveyed by personal representatives in the central leadership and through institutionalized channels such as national working conferences, the National People’s Congress as well as the Chinese Political Consultative Conference.  China’s political power is thus fragmented, resulting in a decision making process in which the policy initiative rests upon the political centre, yet for some legislation or regulation the implementation is completed at the lower levels. To be more precise, China is organized into provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

The administrative levels are further diversified. Rather than being subordinate directly to the centre, each administrative levels receive orders form the next level above meaning that provinces and autonomous regions can give orders to the next lower level, the autonomous prefectures, followed by counties, autonomous counties and cities. As a consequence, national laws or directives are broadly drafted at the central level and the regional and local levels have some degree of freedom to implement them and thus levels below the party centre hold a certain degree of policy-making power. Policy-makers hence pursue their own goals mainly motivated by economic incentives.

All of these motives lead to competition and conflict among different levels of government, which in turn provides entry points for political bargaining. As a result outside actors are able to engage in the policy-making process and shape results on their behalf. However political fragmentation also enables the local officials at such non-institutionalized entry points to shape public policy together with actors such as interest groups, foreign enterprises and capitalists engaging in the process in their attempt to influence policy. It is, however, crucial to note that political bargaining in China is not observable in the open. Prime targets for Chinese actors to exert influence over are governmental officials in the executive branch rather than the legislative branch.

A great number of Chinese associations prefer face-to-face contact with local governments while the majority of those have never interacted with the National People’s Congress or Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Rather than openly confronting the government, business and government mutually empower each other (Shue, 1994). Thus instead of opposing the government there is a dialectical relationship between the government and the entrepreneurs. Chinese entrepreneurs are closely intertwined within party structures. Contrary to Chinese actors, Western capital aims to influence Chinese policies with Western lobbying tools such as letter writing, policy papers, white and position papers, personal meetings, events and grassroots mobilization.  Besides non-institutionalized entry points, China’s policy procedure also includes institutionalized access in form of non-binding public hearings or calls for comments.

Based on this institutional framework, the People’s Republic of China developed a programme to foster the use of renewables in the energy sector. As Mr Duncan Freeman explained during his presentation, the Chinese government has supported the renewable sector since the 1980s. In the early days, much of this support went to R&D and experimental demonstration projects, but from the late 1990s there has been a shift to industrialization and deployment of renewables. The 2006 Renewable Energy Law is central for the latest developments, as it set out the broad principles for development of the sector in China and at least in theory gave them legal force. It requires that utilities purchase all electricity generated from renewable sources, pay the full price for energy from renewable sources, and offer a discount to consumers. Moreover, the Medium- and Long-Term Renewable Energy Development Plan of 2007 set out targets for renewable energy, and also outlined how they were to be achieved. It required, for instance, that bigger power generating companies must have 3 per cent of their generating capacity from non-hydro renewables by 2010, and 8 per cent by 2020.

As a result China’s renewable sector has expanded enormously in recent years: China is now both a major producer of solar panels and also wind turbines. But not only the production of equipment, also the installation of power generation facilities has expanded quickly during the past decade, and actually exceeded installation targets. Yet while China’s market for wind power has been the largest in the world for a number of years (in 2013 China accounted for 45.6 per cent of new installations, followed by Germany 9.2 per cent), solar PV market in China (30 per cent of net installations in 2013, Japan 18 per cent, US 13 per cent, Germany 9 per cent) has been insignificant until recently.

Thus, although central government policy in theory supported all renewables, in reality this was not the case. The differences between wind power and photovoltaic in China can largely be explained by government policy at the central and local level: The Chinese government made a decision to give preference to wind over solar PV power on the grounds that it was more technologically mature and had greater potential for large-scale application. This resulted in strong central government support to the wind power sector for both supply (manufacturing and deployment) and demand. The Wind Power Generating Equipment Industrialization Special Fund, for example, provided for a subsidy of RMB 600 per kilowatt for the first 50 units of new turbines with a capacity of 1.5 MW or more (only available for Chinese –owned or controlled companies). Moreover a fund to provide financial support for off-shore wind, and a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) system were created for wind power. The latter divided China into several sub-regions, with pricing depending on wind resources in the respective areas. At the same time, the central government provided large subsidies for wind power installation and generation. These measures were so effective, that public authorities like the NDRC had to control entry to the sector in order to limit overcapacity in both manufacturing and also installations.

The solar PV sector on the other hand received no or only very limited support from the central government for manufacturing and deployment, and insignificant support on the demand side until 2011. National programmes such as the Golden Sun Programme for demonstration projects had only small impact in creating demand in China. However, in absence of central government policies to support solar PV, many local governments stepped in to provide support to create local solar PV manufacturing industries. The result of this was creation of a huge manufacturing industry, but very small domestic demand. Thus – differently from what is generally expected – China developed a solar PV industry that dominates global markets without much central steering. Since 2011 there is, however, a Feed-in Tariff system in place for solar PV which set at RMB 1.15 per kilowatt of electricity, and in 2012 the support for solar farm demonstration projects has been increased. Moreover, measures to expand the domestic market through subsidies and huge increases in targets for domestic installation of solar PV have been introduced. More recently the share of support for solar PV in the Renewable Energy Fund which provides subsidies to installation and generation in the sector rose to 8 per cent in 2012 and 16 per cent in 2013.


The European regime to support the use of renewable energies is characterised by a high degree of flexibility for the individual member states. Even though there are examples for bilateral cooperation, measures to support renewables are hence largely formulated and implemented on the national level (that is mostly through national legislation). The European level of the political system provides a coordinative framework and common (European) targets (as well as individual goals for each member states); yet Member states control the effect and costs of their individual national support schemes, and the European level has little leverage for “enforcement”.

That said, it has to be noted that in contrast to policy-making in the EU, China’s policy-making system remains a top-down process, with permanent exchange between political institutions and the party centre. Moreover, unlike in Europe, where conflict within society is the primary assumption in shaping public policy, in China, at least in theory, conflict is not seen as being an inherent part of society let alone policy. As such, policy debates are often held behind closed doors and society is informed only after a consensus is reached. Due to the fact that conflict is perceived as negative, issues are rarely contested in the open. For some policy issues, open discussion is taboo. While economic issues may be debated more publicly, sensitive national security issues never are. This weakens awareness of possible other viewpoints on the issue at hand.

But beyond the centralized policy making process China has – and that may come as a  surprise for non-experts – a number of ways to formulate and implement policies: In the experimental procedure, policies must have proven positive results before being implemented nation-wide. At times, the CCP assigns much of its policy-work to the government, leaving ministries and governmental officials with significant policy-making power. In addition, China’s political power is fragmented allowing multiple actors to shape public policy. Hence, even though China’s policy-making process remains distinctly centralist in theory, there are possibilities to engage with actors at different political levels. Moreover, even national measures allow for local variation,  as in the case of Feed-in Tariffs for wind power, which have a regional dimension reflecting the varying conditions of this big country.

The policies China adopted at the different levels of the political system resulted in very different outcomes, one of which was the creation of market for wind power in China, but not for solar PV. Unintended consequences such as overcapacity in both manufacturing and generating have also frequently resulted from policy supports for renewables in China. Comparable to the European approach to the support of renewables, and despite the traditionally strong top-down logic of the Chinese system, a complex set of central and local government policies is behind these results. The interaction of different levels of government and management is hence not only key to understanding the domestic development of the renewable sector in Europe, but also in China. Given the international impacts of Chinese and European policies on the field of renewables, and the limited knowledge about Chinese “multi-level governance”, a better understanding of the regional-national (China) and the national-European (EU) complex is thus imperative. Linked to this question is the cooperation with third parties, for example in cross-border grid integration projects, which – according to the discussion during the Policy Forum – seem to have huge potential in Europe and Asia alike.