European elections 2019: science at the polls
In the context of the European elections, European Scientist is bringing you a series of views from experts from different countries on various topics around science and science policy in Europe, to provide an overview and analysis, which will be useful for the next commission.
ES: What is your assessment of energy policy in Europe? What have the major achievements of the outgoing commission been?
The greatest success of the outgoing commission is to have developed a policy to support gas interconnections by financing projects of common interest. The aim is that every single methane molecule that enters the territory of the Union can circulate to any other location. This will help to diversify gas supply sources, particularly from the south of the Union (thanks to more gas arriving as LNG and via the Southern Corridor).
ES: There is a wide disparity in energy policy between different countries (e.g. France and Germany). Do you think it is necessary to harmonise policy or on the contrary is it preferable to maintain diversity?
Article 194 of the Treaty of Lisbon provides for a series of energy policies to be implemented in common, but it also specifies that Member States are free to choose their energy portfolio. As a result, not everything can be standardised. Some believe that this prevents us from moving faster towards decarbonisation, but for others it makes it possible to diversify the solutions and so avoid putting “all our eggs in one basket”. Some Member States are enthusiastic about renewable energies and want to go further and faster in this field, as we saw at the informal Sibiu Council in May 2019. But others do not share this interest and are much more cautious. While the emphasis is rightly placed on the diversification of types of energy, supply countries and supply routes, this should also apply to Member States’ choices: diversification is always good.
ES: What should the next commission do to encourage this sector? Do you have any recommendations?
Be more explicit about the need for nuclear power. Do not bet everything on decarbonisation, i.e. apply the slogan which we hear all too often but which is not put into practice “be technologically neutral”. Stop deciding which sector should receive research support: the sectors that will receive research support are decided by politics and not by researchers. It would be simpler and more effective to finance research structures (abolition of VAT on research and taxes on researchers’ salaries) rather than randomly selecting the sectors to be financed.