Posts Tagged ‘vehicle’

EFP Brief No. 149: EU-Africa Energy Partnership: Implications for Biofuel Use

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

This brief intends to provide an overview of the rationale underlying the EU-Africa Energy Partnership, in addition to an analysis of the potential implications of this policy on the development of sub-Saharan African nations. It is posited that the partnership could have potentially negative repercussions if critical uncertainties are not sufficiently taken into account, and that it is in the EU’s best interest to ensure that outcomes are genuinely equitable. The research also has implications for other developing nations around the world seeking to further their economies and raise living standards by means of engaging in the global biofuels industry.

Europe, Energy Security and Biofuels

It is widely acknowledged that the energy security of the EU, as a whole, is deficient with respect to meeting future energy requirements. At the same time, the EU has resolved to de-crease its carbon footprint and wean itself off from environ-mentally damaging fossil fuels. A further concern is that even if the developed world manages to arrest the proliferation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the developing world will still continue to pollute.
To address these important issues, the EU has developed the EU-Africa Energy Partnership. The rationale, broadly speak-ing, is twofold:

  • Secure the EU’s energy supply and allow its member states to meet challenging emissions reduction targets.
  • Provide sub-Saharan African economies with a further export market, in addition to allowing these nations to leapfrog to lower-emissions technologies.

Although the partnership deals with renewable energy in its broadest sense, there appears to be great emphasis on the cul-tivation of biomass used in the production of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, for which there is increasing demand within the EU. Despite the ostensibly sound intentions of the policy, it remains to be seen whether the energy partner-ship will truly be mutually beneficial.
The aim of this brief is to examine the critical uncertainties that could potentially damage the workability and equitability of the energy partnership. A key consideration, here, is that the partnership has seemingly been formulated under ceteris pari-bus conditions. Thus, the partnership’s success is predicated on the continuation of existing trends, such as growth in bio-fuel demand and the ability to cultivate biomass at market-friendly prices in the future. Yet, the increasing complexity of technological systems, the advent and potential adoption of new technologies, in addition to climate change, means that it cannot be assumed that all things will indeed remain equal.

EU Biofuel Policy

The EU has set targets for biofuel usage within the member states. Policy measures designed to stimulate biofuel use were introduced in 1992. The overall aim has been to reduce the cost of biofuels in comparison with conventional petroleum products, which otherwise would be higher given the produc-tion costs and economic risk associated with fluctuations in oil price and the value of biomass-derived by-products (Cadenas and Cabezudo, 1998).
The EU Commission set a political target of substituting 20 percent of conventional biofuels by 2020 (European Commis-sion, 2001, p. 45). The even more ambitious COM(2006)845 proposed that biofuel targets for transport fuel should be 20 percent for the same year. The EU Biofuels Directive (2003/30/EEC) requires member states to ensure that a mini-mum proportion of fuels sold are biofuels (see Faaij, 2006). The aim is to ensure that 5.75% of conventional fuels are re-placed by biofuels, although the Biomass Action Plan (BAP) has concluded that these targets will not be reached (Commis-sion of the European Communities, 2006, p. 6).
There is thus a growing requirement for biofuel production within the EU and indeed a growing demand for biofuels (es-pecially biodiesel). Since the EU member states do not have the capacity to increase biomass cultivation without causing an increase in food prices (a politically unpalatable outcome), it has been deemed necessary to look for alternative ways to satisfy this demand.

Energy Partnership

In this context, the EU-Africa Energy Partnership emerges as an important component of the EU’s aim to increase the use of bio-fuels for transport within the member states, thereby allowing the EU to meet challenging biofuel targets, contribute to global GHG mitigation strategies (such as Kyoto), and address concerns regarding energy security. The partnership is argued to be mutually beneficial, since it will also promote economic and social improvement in sub-Saharan African countries and allow such nations to switch to more environmentally friendly patterns of energy use.
The partnership is intended to promote greater interconnectiv-ity between energy systems and ensure a diversity of energy options (Commission of the European Communities, 2006, p. 15). Although there is reference to alternative energy sources, such as hydropower (ibid.), there is clearly an emphasis on greater biomass cultivation and biofuel production, perhaps to the detriment of other energy solutions.
Energy security is obviously an important component of the partnership. Sub-Saharan Africa thus has the ability to sup-plement volatile supplies (and pricing) of OPEC oil with bio-mass cultivated in the region. Although the sub-Saharan re-gion is also clearly not especially stable, it at least has the ca-pacity to offset some of the risk associated with dealing with OPEC countries.

Production Processes

Given the current high cost of second-generation biofuel pro-duction processes (which use the whole organic matter as a feedstock), it can be assumed that the bulk of the biofuel feed-stocks grown in sub-Saharan Africa would be used in arguably inefficient first-generation production processes. Here, only the sugars and starches (rather than the whole plant) are used for ethanol production, while only the extracted vegetable oil is used in biodiesel production (Charles et al., 2007).

Critical Uncertainties

It is necessary to look at the critical uncertainties that could impact on the success of the EU-Africa Energy Partnership.

Climate Change

The energy partnership, in as much as it relates to promoting sub-Saharan Africa as a source of biofuel feedstock, assumes that current climatic conditions will prevail. Yet climate change could mean that climatic conditions in areas currently suitable for agricultural endeavour might militate against prof-itable biomass cultivation.
There are a number of critical factors associated with climate change that need to be taken into account:

  • Increased uncertainty with regard to rainfall patterns: This will problematize when to plant and place pressure on water use, with potential social repercussions.
  • Increased and more severe meteorological phenomena: Floods could wipe out entire fields; storms could damage or destroy harvests, while uncontrolled fires (resulting from co-factors of drought, thunderstorm activity or hu-man action) could do likewise.
  • Increased incidence and severity of pestilence: Changed climatic conditions could make crops more susceptible to pests, thereby increasing the need to employ pesticides (with cost penalties and potential impact on the local envi-ronment and human health).

These factors, when taken together, suggest that it will be more difficult to plan for weather-related phenomena into the future. Thus, claims of increased energy security within the EU resulting from the partnership need to be tempered with the realization that traditional agricultural techniques do not guarantee constant and predictable harvests, while climate change may exacerbate uncertainty.

Environmental Impacts

Agriculture has brought about widespread environmental deg-radation around the world. Thus, it is important to bear in mind the potentially negative impacts that intensified farming practices will have on ecosystems in sub-Saharan nations, in addition to the region as a whole.
The possible factors that could lead to negative environmental impacts are as follows:

  • Increased use of fertilizers: Run-off from fertilizers in-creases the incidence of algal bloom in aquatic environ-ments; fertilizers lead to an increased level of atmospheric N2O harmful to the ozone layer; and fertilizer production and distribution is energy inefficient and contributes to greenhouse gas proliferation.
  • Increased use of pesticides: Pesticide run-off pollutes local watercourses, results in a loss of biodiversity when food supplies for higher organisms are reduced, can flow throughout food-chains, thereby leading to chemical build-up in higher organisms, especially avian fauna; pro-duction processes and distribution incur GHG penalties, can be harmful to human life and can contaminate water supplies (of particular importance in developing nations).
  • Increased threat of deforestation: Expanding biofuel mar-kets may prompt changes in land-use, potentially leading to deforestation, entailing significant biodiversity and CO2 penalties.

These factors could be aggravated if a greater demand for bio-fuels in the EU member states is occasioned and if changing weather patterns result in a need to ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Such a demand could effectively see the EU exporting local environmental degradation from its member states to sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental degradation could also lead to opportunity costs resulting from a loss of potential eco-tourism income.

Technological Change

Biofuels, at best, will be an important component in a future energy mix. There are no indications that biofuels will ever replace petroleum-derived products on a one-for-one basis (Di Lucia and Nilsson, 2007). Biofuels enjoy a clear advantage over other potential energy solutions, especially since they take advantage of existing infrastructural systems (Foresight Vehicle, 2004). This ensures that switching costs are reduced.
On the other hand, there is the threat that biofuels will be ren-dered redundant by other technologies. There is much evi-dence throughout history to suggest that over-reliance on a single natural resource for a nation’s prosperity is not sustain-able over the long-term. For example, Chile, which prospered on the basis of its export of sodium nitrate (saltpetre), lost this advantage when scientists developed a synthetic alternative.
Some threats to the increasing importance of biofuels are as follows:

  • Increase in use of nuclear energy (and thus ‘clean’ elec-tricity).
  • Switch to cleaner second- (and third-) generation biofuel production processes.
  • Development of a hydrogen economy (predicated on the availability of clean, renewable energy, such as from the sources listed below).
  • Other energy paradigms, for instance, geothermal, hy-droelectric, photovoltaic, wind etc.

Thus, over-capitalization in biomass cultivation for first-generation production processes (in particular) may lead to un-sustainable increases in foreign debt, in addition to severe job losses and resultant social upheaval. In a worst case scenario, more efficient technologies, if they become widely adopted around the globe, could lead to the biofuel industry’s collapse.

Opportunity Costs

Even if the biofuel industry remains important, over-emphasis on biomass cultivation could result in a failure to develop in-dustries that have the potential to contribute greater value added to sub-Saharan African economies. This would espe-cially be the case if insufficient attention were paid to process-ing the feedstock in sub-Saharan Africa, as could occur in na-tions traditionally focussed on exporting natural resources.
Biomass cultivation, in the event of an ever-increasing de-mand for biofuels, would not merely translate into sub-Saharan African countries gaining an OPEC-like significance on the world stage. This is especially the case given a) the potentially wide dispersal of biomass cultivation and b) the high likelihood that biofuels would remain one of several al-ternative energy solutions. African biomass would also have to compete with that cultivated in North and South America, and also in South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Given that these regions are already more highly industrialized than most sub-Saharan African nations, it is plausible that greater value added would occur in these regions.
There is also a danger that biomass cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa could engender an increased dependency on multi-national corporations involved in agribusiness. There are al-ready substantial links to agriculture in developing nations and the research-intensive products, including seeds, support sys-tems and expertise, being offered by multinational agribusi-ness entities.

Export Commodity Dependency

Sub-Saharan Africa has a long history of supplying European nations with raw materials to be used in value-adding produc-tion processes. There is thus the potential for this situation to continue if Europe resolves to view the region merely as source of inexpensive feedstock for biofuel production, rather than as a knowledge-intensive producer in its own right.
Many of the economic and social problems faced today in sub-Saharan Africa are deeply rooted in history. When the Euro-pean colonial powers partitioned Africa, they viewed the colo-nies as suppliers of raw materials for their factories. Farmland traditionally used for food cultivation, even after the inde-pendence of the former colonies, was turned over to cash crops such as cocoa, cotton, coffee and rubber. The result was that Africa exported what it did not need, and imported what it did, thereby leading to substantial trade deficits and continued indebtedness (Carmody, 1998). This is because the low price obtained for cash crops rarely if ever matches the relatively high price paid for imported food, in addition to luxury goods and hardware desired by affluent members of society.
It is important to be awake to the potential for ongoing com-modity dependence to occur, especially if the EU pays insuffi-cient attention to developing sub-Saharan Africa as an energy producer rather than merely an agricultural supplier.

Investing in Sub-Saharan Future

It is possible to formulate a number of potential policy impli-cations that would add rigour to the energy partnership.

  • Moving away from first-generation biofuels: A continued emphasis on first-generation biofuel production processes reinforces sub-Saharan Africa as a supplier of cash crops.There are inherent problems with first-generation biofuel production processes. A failure to address these and move demand towards more efficient second-generation proc-esses could lead to a global undermining of confidence in biofuels as a source of renewable energy.
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability: This is tied closely to the previous consideration, but also with the necessity of preventing local and regional environmental degrada-tion as a result of poor farming practices or indeed wide-spread change in land-use. There is a need to develop mechanisms to ensure that increasing demand for biofuels within the EU does not lead to catastrophic environmental impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Investing in sub-Saharan Africa’s future: The energy partnership should be used as a component in an overall strategy to enhance economic development in the region. A failure to do so will result in greater amounts of envi-ronmental degradation (including greenhouse gas emis-sions) over the long-term.

In short, the nations of the region need to acquire their own energy security and processing infrastructure. The EU-Africa Energy Partnership must serve as a vehicle to promote these ends. To achieve this end, sufficient political will over the long-term to propagate cleaner biofuel production processes is required. If not, the biofuels market could be irreparably com-promised and the partnership with it, with grave implications for not only the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, but also the planet as a whole.

 

Authors: Michael Charles michael.charles@scu.edu.au
Sponsors: Southern Cross University, Australia
Type: Single issue, energy policy
Organizer: n.a.
Duration: n.a.
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2018
Date of Brief: July 2008

Download: EFMN Brief No. 149_EU-Africa Energy Partnership

Sources and References

  •  Cadenas, A., and Cabezudo, S., 1998. Biofuels as sustain-able technologies: perspectives for less developed coun-tries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 58(1–2), 83–103.
  • Carmody, P., 1998. Constructing alternatives to structural adjustment in Africa. Review of African Political Econ-omy 25(75), 25–46.
  • Charles, M.B., Ryan, R., Ryan, N., and Oloruntoba, R., 2007. Public policy and biofuels: the way forward? En-ergy Policy 35(11), 5737–5746.
  • Di Lucia, L., and Nilsson, L.J., 2007. Transport biofuels in the European Union: the state of play. Transport Policy 14(6), 533–543.
  • European Commision, 2001. Green Paper: Towards a European Strategy for Security of Supply. Directorate-General for Transport and Energy.
    http://ec.europa.eu/energy/green-paper-energy-supply/doc/green_paper_energy_supply_en.pdf
  • European Commission, 2006. Communication from the Commission: An EU strategy for Biofuels—Impact As-sessment. Commission Staff Working Document COOM (2006) 34 final.
    http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/biomass/biofuel/sec2006_142_en.pdf
  • Faaij, A.P.C., 2006. Bio-energy in Europe: changing technology choices. Energy Policy 34(3), 322–342.
  • Foresight Vehicle, 2004. Foresight Vehicle Technology Roadmap: Technology and Research Directions for Fu-ture Road Vehicles, Version 2.0.
    http://www.foresightvehicle.org.uk/public/info_/FV/TRMV2.pdf

EFP Brief No. 138: Results of Lab on ‘Old and New Energy’

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

The Club of Amsterdam set up an ‘Old and New Energy Lab’ designed to generate novel and potentially viable plans of action for dealing with energy issues by leveraging brainstorming methods to produce innovative thinking and bypass preconceived ideas and assumptions. The process tapped into the expertise of ‘thought leaders’ chosen for their diversity so as to maximise the fertility of discussions.

Lab Challenges to Think Outside the Box

Diminishing reserves of fossil fuels, climate change, geopo-litical factors and a wave of technological advances are bring-ing complex pressures to bear on the landscape of energy gen-eration and consumption. Change seems inevitable, but react-ing appropriately is a challenge. This is especially so when limited modes of supply and consumption have been en-trenched for extensive periods, as is the case with the energy landscape. This can make it very hard for people to think ‘out-side the box’ – arguably much needed at the moment.Thus the challenge addressed at ‘The Lab’ was to bypass pre-conceptions and traditional ways of thinking. Participants were called upon to brainstorm possibilities and then validate the resulting ideas with some tangible, realistic scenarios.

Conceiving Future Scenarios – the Methodology

Principal approaches employed were Socratic discourse and a future scenario method. Participants were asked to identify a set of driving ‘values’ deemed desirable (e.g. equal access to resources, freedom, quality of life, stability etc.). Socratic dis-course and other techniques were applied to open up discus-sion to the broadest possible level. The outcome was the ob-servation of numerous facts, trends, constraints etc.
The resulting ‘facts’ were then fed into an analysis based on the future scenario method. The values identified earlier were used to drive the scenarios, which were to envision a positive future ten years hence (the goal being to identify possible so-lutions).
Four scenarios were created by choosing two drivers of change: governance and economy. Note that there is nothing absolute about the choice of drivers or even the number of drivers con-sidered, but these were the ones considered most important.
These drivers define the axes of a graph depicting four different environments (symbolized by the numbered circles in the diagram)derived from the possible combinations of extreme cases of both drivers. These environments provided the basis for the scenarios.

138_bild1

Keep in mind that these scenarios are not predictions but simply tools to guide discussion from exploration to identification of potential solutions and analysis of important trends and factors (political, cultural, technological, etc.) and their interactions.

Participants

Four ‘thought leaders’ brought expertise to help keep discussion realistic, whether on technological, economic, political or social levels. Their backgrounds included

  • analysis of new technologies and their commercial and social impact;
  • understanding corruption and conflict resulting from exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems;
  • energy resource analysis and prediction in the context of the International Energy Agency;
  • nuclear policy and law.

Energy Futures – the Four Scenarios

Observations on trends and forces will be split into socioeconomic and cultural, and technological and sectoral. The four scenarios based on these trends and forces will then be outlined before looking at identified opportunities and challenges, which are in turn fed by the scenarios.

Scarcity of Supply, Potential for Conflict, and Environmental Concern – Socio-economic and Cultural Trends/Trend Breaks
  • Rising energy production costs.
  • Concern about climate change (global warming).
  • Increasing sensitivity to energy supply disruption.
  • Concerns over energy dependence and vulnerability.
  • Impending scarcity of fossil fuels with increasing demand from rapidly advancing nations such as China and India.
  • Increasing global tension relating to energy supplies and the possibility of resulting conflict.
  • Environmental concerns about nuclear energy.
  • Increasing interest in alternative energy sources.
  • Increasing interest and efforts in energy conservation.
  • Development of carbon trading schemes.
More Choices and Technological Advances –  Technological and Sectoral Trends/Trend Breaks
  • Capability (in some markets) for energy purchasers to also sell to the grid.
  • Choice (in some markets) over source of energy bought.
  • The nanotechnology ‘revolution’ impacting multiple, interacting energy-related technologies.
  • Multiple parallel and rapid advances in solar technologies promising greater efficiency and/or lower cost.
  • Advances in fuel cells (in many sectors).
  • Advances in batteries and ultracapacitors.
  • Developments in thermoelectrics offering promise for waste heat reclamation and geothermal energy.
  • Availability of smart energy-saving materials (electrochromic or anti-IR window coatings etc.).
  • Lighter/ stronger metals, ceramics and composites.
  • Efficient lighting (especially nanostructured LEDs).
  • Improvements in coal/gas/biomass-to-liquid processes, often driven by improved technology (e.g. nanocatalysis).
  • Advances in hydrogen production and storage.
  • Potential developments in artificial photosynthesis.
  • Potential for low-loss electrical transmission.
  • New CO2 separation technologies.
  • Improved nuclear fission technologies.
The Four Scenarios

Four scenarios were framed assuming environments as described in the methodology section. Remember that they are designed to be optimistic views of a situation ten years hence. Their creation allowed disparate ideas to be brought together in a framework where interactions and socio-economic and political realities could be considered.

Not all the scenarios were recorded in the same degree of detail. Different groups of participants chose different styles of presentation.

 Scenario 1 – ‘Harvesting Energy’ (emerging economy, minimal governance)

The environment envisaged was a poor, sub-Saharan country with village communities as the dominant settlement pattern, poor access to resources and minimal infrastructure. The village in this scenario was assumed to be remote but not overly far from a principal city.

The one plentiful resource is sunshine. New cheap photovoltaics and microloans allow the village to produce electricity. This gives rise to increased productivity and enables more flexibility in trading of staples such as vegetable and meat produce through refrigeration.

The small economic boost and decreasing costs of photovoltaics allow expansion of generating capacity. Direct energy sales become attractive in a future where fossil fuel is expensive and supplies unreliable and the village becomes a supplier of power from solar energy. Improved battery technologies and high fuel prices lead to more electric or hybrid vehicles. Households in and outside the village increasingly use batteries and pay for recharging.

The village has effectively shifted from subsistence agriculture to ‘farming’ sunlight, with batteries as the means of distribution.  The availability of power for transport attracts more vehicles and infrastructure improves. Then cables are laid to directly supply electricity to the nearby city. After all, the village now has the generating capacity, the expertise, and plentiful lowvalue land for expansion. Infrastructure experiences another boost, including communications. The village buys computers and the community now has Internet access. Educational opportunities increase dramatically. Over time the community becomes generally well-educated and thus capable of engaging in even more diverse and complex commercial activities.

Some time in the future (although maybe not in the ten-year frame), solar energy could be captured in a fuel created by artificial photosynthesis, allowing wider export of energy and opening up the solar farming model to more remote communities. This would require importing water (limiting displacement of battery use), but importing water is certainly preferable to importing oil in this (future) day and age.

Scenario 2 – ‘Central Energy Planning’ (emerging economy, strong central governance)

This scenario assumed a top-down, centrally-organised society with an emerging economy. China was offered as an example, on the assumption that much of the traditional communist philosophy still permeates the government, which regulates the allocation of resources. Short-term (business) thinking is constrained for the benefit of the collective when it comes to something as fundamental as national energy supply.

The immediate need for more energy to support growth is urgent. Coal is abundant and coal-fired power stations proliferate, with little thought given to environmental concerns. But this is only the first, quick fix, part of the plan, which is also influenced by oil imports for vehicles, the need to transport energy over great distances and the fact that even coal resources have limits.

Coal-to-liquid processes are used to produce clean diesel to help ease the dependence on oil imports, while a massive research effort creates low-loss electrical transmission based on high-temperature superconductors (doubly important because of the chosen alternative to coal – photovoltaics).

Huge solar ‘plains’ grow in the country’s remote, arid and impoverished west, bringing employment and commerce. Ultimately, the technology becomes simple plastic sheets that can be rolled out and clipped together. They contain nano-engineered structures that exploit the highly-efficient initial step of photosynthesis but feed the liberated electrons into the superconducting transmission lines and on to the energy-hungry coast. China soon becomes a major exporter of these technologies.

In the cities of the East, electric and hybrid cars are encouraged and manufactured. Coal is increasingly used only to produce diesel and dependence on foreign oil now rapidly disappears.

 Scenario 3 – ‘Energy Caps and Taxes’ (strong economy, strong central governance)

Sweden, which aims to become oil-free by 2021, might be an example.

A progressively increasing carbon tax is introduced for individuals and corporations. A flexible power supply network allows individuals to avoid a carbon tax by purchasing energy from sustainable sources. This encourages development of such sources – from the logging and papermaking industries using waste to produce electricity, heat and biofuels, down to individual households generating energy and selling any surplus to the grid.

Central support and legislation for energy-saving technologies in housing and transport increases their uptake through various means. The carbon tax imposes a cost on manufacturers for the lifetime emissions of their products.  The tax alone triggers substantial change, but more comes through governmentdriven, large-scale geothermal, hydroelectric and combined heat and power schemes.

 Scenario 4 – ‘Communicating Energy’ (strong economy, minimal governance, individual action)

This scenario is one of change through popular movements. Analogies might be seen in the growth in the popularity of ‘organic’ produce or that of ‘fair trade’ products, both of which evolved out of grass roots concern. For instance, we can help the environment by buying local produce rather than that shipped great distances, or eating less meat (such unlikely action probably highlights limits to this approach). Other individual contributions are switching lights off, car-pooling, capturing rainwater to water one’s garden or carbon offsetting schemes.

The key is understanding what can be done and creating a culture of willingness and responsibility. Communication is key and the Internet makes this possible as never before.

To some extent this scenario is happening now, but there are clearly limits to how much it can achieve without some topdown initiatives (or economic imperatives) added to the mix.

Top-down Action and Technological Advances are Critical for Seizing Opportunities

The fact that all but one of the scenarios could conceivably address all the main energy issues points to much opportunity. Exploiting this rapidly enough is a major challenge. Another obvious challenge is highlighted by Scenario 4, which suggests that, at least in the developed world, ‘people power’ is not enough and top-down governmental action may well be necessary. Economic and practical pressures would achieve the necessary changes eventually, but it is probably not advisable to wait for the hurricane to prove that you should not have made your house of straw. As for opportunities, the scenarios explored highlight those best. Scenario 1, ‘Harvesting Energy’,
perhaps best illustrates the dramatic achievement that might be had given only certain technological advances. Many other scenarios are possible, of course, and those developed were deliberately positive. But the consensus at The Lab was that all the scenarios were credible, so they probably do represent real opportunities.

Diverse Solutions, Proactive  Government and Advances  in Technology Are Key

In view of policy implications, the full two days of discussion and debate might be briefly summarized in the following manner.1

Oil dependence is a danger that needs addressing

Despite much disagreement about how close ‘peak oil’ is, all seemed to agree that action is needed now to reduce the developed world’s dependence on oil.

Solutions to the problems being faced will be diverse

Different environments are likely to beg different solutions and the diversity of technological developments that bear on the issues prevent simple answers and argue for multiple alternatives to be investigated.

The variation across the scenarios developed suggests that multiple approaches will be needed in parallel, covering conservation, alternative forms of generation, and storage and transmission technologies. The best solution or combination of solutions for a given region will vary with external factors (climate, population density, access to water, etc.) and with developments in numerous interacting technologies. The appropriate focus can vary dramatically depending on the existing situation. For example, a focus on coal in the short-term is sensible for China, if the aim is energy independence, while France might see nuclear in a similar light. In lower latitudes, solar energy will be more quickly economically viable than in higher latitudes, where geothermal may be a better choice. In all cases, conservation makes sense as a priority and gives the most rapid return on investment.

Given this diversity and uncertainty, it seems sensible to recommend broad investment in energy-related R&D and a systematic, inclusive, and iterative analysis of the energy situation at regional scales.

It is worth noting that only two currently achievable sources of energy are sufficient for global needs in the long-term and truly sustainable. They are solar and geothermal energy.

Areas of technological focus to be considered are just as diverse – see section 2 on technological and sectoral trends.

In the developed world government action is probably essential

The ramifications of energy supply disruption and the time needed to change our infrastructure suggest that appropriate change cannot be expected to arise from market and social forces. Accordingly, governments need to be a key player in developed countries. Proactive action from government is almost certainly necessary to avoid the risk of severe economic disruption.

Much of the rest is down to technological developments and their impacts on the economic competitiveness of certain technologies. Though solar emerged from the Lab as the winner in terms of chief long-term global energy sources, the means of capturing it, transporting it and using it produced no clear favourites. The range of possibilities from domestic to industrial to automotive applications in a diverse range of environments suggests that all avenues of research should be actively explored. Since solutions will likely be more complex than the current rather monolithic systems, flexibility, interoperability and rapid adaptability are critical success factors.

In the under-developed world, small changes or actions may have a large and lasting positive effect

When tackling the issue of poverty on a global scale, there may be a possibility of achieving much with little (Scenario 1), given certain technological shifts.

 

Authors: Paul Holister                  paul9@holisters.net
Sponsors: Club of Amsterdam
Type: Field/sector specific
Organizer: Humberto Schwab, humberto@clubofamsterdam.com, Felix Bopp, felix@clubofamsterdam.com
Duration: April 2007
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2017
Date of Brief: April 2008

Download: EFMN Brief No. 138_ Energy Lab

Sources and References

Club of Amsterdam, Lab on Old and New Energy, April 17 and 18, 2007, in Girona, Spain.

http://www.clubofamsterdam.com/content_list.asp?contentid= 655&contenttypeid=9 

The participating thought leaders were:

  • Nathalie Horbach – Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy, University of Dundee;
  • Simon Taylor – director and co-founder, Global Witness;
  • Christof van Agt – independent participant, formerly at the International Energy Agency;
  • Paul Holister – technology impact consultant.

Humberto Schwab, director of the Club of Amsterdam and innovation philosopher, led the process.

EFP Brief No. 133: The Role of the EU in the World

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

The purpose of the present brief is to explore how foresight studies perceive, interpret and handle the EU’s role in the world. The examination of its role can be interpreted in different ways, can include a wide range of perspectives, and can apply to various levels of reference (political, social, economic, technological, scientific etc.). We have focused on the concerns and challenges the European Commission has noted as of major importance in the coming years.

The Multi-faceted ‘Role  of the EU in the World’

The role of the EU in the world, in the view of the European Commission, is a multifaceted one. This is expressed in the documents Socioeconomic Sciences and Humanities Workprogramme 2007-2008 (p. 4, 23-26) and Reforming the Budget, Changing Europe. A Public Consultation Paper in view of the 2008/2009 Budget Review (sect. 2.1). The underlying reasoning in all of the documents analysed is that the EU has to increase its role and presence worldwide. This is considered a necessity, both to be able to protect its interests and values successfully as well as to contribute to world stability and development drawing upon its broad experience, strengths and unique characteristics.

Increasing the role of the EU is seen as imperative in response to the implications of and challenges brought by globalisation, the changing interactions between world regions and the rise of new global players. A second line of argumentation emphasizes the need to develop crosscutting policies to face global challenges that go beyond national borders like climate change and biodiversity, demographic change and migration, competitiveness, terrorism and organised crime, or sustainable energy. A third line of argumentation refers to the increasing role of the European dimension in boosting knowledge, mobility,competitiveness and innovation within a globalised environment of scientific and technological progress.

Text Analysis & Intelligent Reading

The methodology applied to identify and retrieve the information relevant to the subject matter involved ‘text analysis’ as well as ‘intelligent reading’ of relevant studies and reports.

The text analysis involved 160 studies from the EFMN database. These studies represent a variety of backgrounds, scopes, themes, horizons and scales. First, a small number of relevant studies with a title strongly related to our research topic was selected. Using the semantic data mining tool “Text analyst”, the texts were then analysed to identify the most relevant keywords and semantic relations between them. This list of keywords was then used to analyse the 160 selected studies.

Thus sentences including any of the keywords were identified. These were then read in the original context. If the section in which the sentence occurred was regarded as providing new or additional information, then it was also marked as relevant. The final result was a text file containing the relevant sentences and sections from the original studies with information related to the selected topic and a reference to the original document.

The EU’s role in the world being a very broad, general and international topic, we did not expect it to be treated as a core subject in relevant foresight studies. Foresight studies usually focus on more specific challenges and issues. They examine more generic challenges at the level of defining the background and setting the framework of analysis. Furthermore, most of the foresight studies have a national or regional, rather than a European or international scope.1 These factors limited the related information yielded by the text analysis even though a second round of text analysis was carried out including foresight studies of a trans-/international scope only. In consequence, additional documents considered relevant were also reviewed. These included EFMN publications and background documents as well as reviews of books dealing with the future of Europe.

EU as a Global Player

The role of the EU in relation to the changing interactions between world regions and the rise of new global players is examined in foresight studies from a whole range of perspectives (political, socio-economic, technological, scientific and cultural).

Towards European Democracy and Citizenship

The political aspect given to the EU’s role examines the internal challenges the EU has to face to further develop the definition of European citizenship as well as the degree to which the EU’s institutional architecture can be a model for new forms of governance.

In the study Democracy and Futures (Finnish Committee for the Future), R. Cinquegrani analyses different aspects of the concept of democracy within the context of the European Union. Several issues are addressed ranging from understanding and managing the connection between all the new and different social, economic and political positions inside the EU to defining a European democracy and citizenship or handling exclusivists’ conceptions of the state and the consequent implications for minority issues.

Governance Models for the Developing World

There are diverse views on the role that the EU can play as a model for the democratisation of the developing world. In the Democracy and Futures study, T. Murata examines the future of democracy in India and China and the degree to which these countries can be models for democracy in the developing world. He argues that many developing states needing better governance structures are likely to find a better match in the well established Indian model rather than the existing US model or the currently developing European one. India has a long tradition of liberal representative government and has been dealing relatively effectively with large language, ethnic, religious and communal divides.
Despite its recent economic growth, India remains part of the developing world due to its large poor and agrarian population, and large, poorly integrated territory. Thus, it is likely that its solutions are more applicable to the many developing states which are the same countries often referred to as “emerging democracies” in Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Indonesia and the Philippines.
Regarding China the author asserts that the conspicuous lack of a liberal, representative democracy and the communist regime are counterbalanced to a certain point by a passionate desire for political participation in China. In addition, its historical support for anti-colonial, pro-independence struggles allows China to enjoy respect and legitimacy in many parts of the developing world. Many also see a major possibility for the Chinese people to successfully “leapfrog” into a new political future having a fair chance of incorporating current technologies to better approximate true democracy than the currently dominant representative government. These considerations, along with the fact that many nonOECD nations consider standards of living and political systems of the First World to be unachievable, may lead the developing world to identify with and derive images of their future from major Third World powers.

The Soft (but Dominating) Power of the EU

However, the opposite view on the role of the EU as a governance model is also found in literature. M. Leonard, for example, in his book Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century (2005) argues that the basis for American power (the ability to wage war trans-continentally and the ubiquity of American popular culture) has reached its natural limits. Against this he compares the European method of influence, which relies heavily on so-called ‘soft power’. In contrast to the previous study, he considers the European method as the more influential with the developing ‘BRIC’ nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).

The BRIC nations are more interested in the European model of capitalism delivering prosperity, security and greater levels of equality to its citizens. This contrasts to the US model where the winner takes all. The rising nations are encouraged by the way in which the EU has allowed tiny nations to leverage their influence. They can either join the EU or start their own regional association to overcome a ‘unipolar’ world. Eventually, the EU may be encouraged to develop a ‘Union of Unions’. It is in this way that Europe will run the 21st century.

Another example is J. Rifkin’s book about The European Dream (2004). In examining how the world will develop in the future, Rifkin, an enthusiastic advocate of the European model, notes that the market economy and the nation state are not designed for instant global communication and the networked world, which is already rapidly developing. Thus, he anticipates that the EU will develop decentralised and polycentric models of governance giving the EU the role of a rule-maker and gatekeeper rather than a governor and enforcer. The European model is being exported to other parts of the world replacing the crucible of US soft power as the ideal to which the world aspires. The European Dream expresses global connectivity without losing the sense of cultural identity and locality, freedom in relationships with others and the pursuit of quality of life, leading to the championing of human rights and the rights of nature.

The Role of the EU in Facing Global Challenges

The importance of the EU in the world is not seen only in political terms. Significant weight and responsibility is placed especially on facing global challenges and threats that go beyond national borders. Many foresight exercises point out the fact that future challenges (which are mostly not limited to a specific country) cannot – or at least not only – be addressed at a national level and, moreover, the supranational dimension and, in particular, the European dimension should be taken into account.

The FinnSight 2015 study states clearly that to implement Finland’s national vision as well as the positive impacts of scientific and technological development Finland needs to actively search for European and global partners. According to the French study Technologies-Clés 2010, it is not only necessary to take the European dimension into consideration, moreover the importance of national industry policies decreases in the globalised context.

Foresight exercises point out the following domains for which a common European answer to future challenges is necessary: ageing population; country differences in infrastructures; spatial and rural development/ environment and agriculture; competitiveness (for instance in the domain of information and communication technology it is only possible at the European level); energy (the successful promotion of wind energy for instance is only possible at the European level); security (nongovernmental and governmental action at a national as well as the international level has to be coordinated); social issues (challenges like social cohesion).

Safeguarding Socio-economic Growth

Interestingly, people see the success of the EU model of socioeconomic development as being both aspired to and threatened by the so-called global powers.

As the French FutuRIS study notes, the development of eastern and southern Asia will lead to major changes on the global geopolitical and economic map, which will modify the balance of power in the area of research and innovation. If Europe does not devote enough resources to this area, growth, which is already at risk of slowing down, will be compromised. This will leave Europe in a difficult position between Asia, with its dynamic growth, and the US, which is expected to continue to devote considerable resources to research and innovation. To provide a rough overview, world GERD is expected to rise from € 629 to € 1,320 billion over the next 20 years (on a constant euro basis), with the percentage claimed by the US down slightly from 36.6% to 33.0%, while Europe-15 will see its share fall from 22.3% to 17.5%. China will rise to 14.9% and industrial Asia to 24.1% (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia).

Other studies (Globalisation Trends, 2006) note the rapidly rising Chinese R&D intensity as well as the rapid development in sectors like motor vehicles. They warn that the complementarities (and thus less direct competition) that the EU now enjoys with China are fading away and that future trading conditions for European companies will be more demanding. On the other hand, they argue that Europe has no need to fear globalisation. Unlike the US and Japan, the EU has managed to maintain its dominant world market share position despite the emergence of countries such as China as major trading powers.

Referring to growth in the non-OECD economies the study Globalisation and Macroeconomic Policy (2007) argues that GDP growth will remain well above that in the OECD economies, reflecting higher productivity growth and more favourable demographic developments. Per capita output in the non-OECD economies is projected to rise by close to 5% per annum over the next two decades if globalisation continues at its current pace, compared with growth of 2% per annum in the OECD regions. Amongst the non-OECD countries, China and non-OECD Europe would enjoy the largest increases in per capita output.

EU to Lead International Cooperation

The scientific and technological aspect of the role of the EU is seen as of major importance for the future. Even more so international cooperation is highlighted. The SCOPE 2015 project, covering four regions of the world (countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS] excluding Russia, Latin America excluding Brazil, Maghreb and Mashreq, and Sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa), seeks to demonstrate the utility of foresight to EC policy makers and others concerned with cooperation with developing countries in research, technology and innovation.  The specific purpose of the project was to produce ten-year scenarios focused upon contextualised scientific and technological developments in selected regions of developing countries with a view to drawing implications for European research, technological development and innovation cooperation policy.

The study Emerging S+T Priorities in the Triadic Regions identifies scientific and technological developments and research priorities where Europe could take the lead in the years to come. Several strategies are proposed to prevent a decline of the European science and technology positioning in the eventuality of the Lisbon strategy failing, which are combined with the consolidation of current trends that emphasize economic factors for supporting research and innovation.

In addition, a number of foresight studies (like FISTERA or Transport and Mobility in an Enlarged Europe 2020) focus on examining the future of specific research fields and associated sectors on a European if not international scale.

Building the European Research Area

Another aspect of the role of the EU appearing in foresight studies is linked to the Lisbon and Barcelona objectives and the development of the European Research Area (ERA). For example, in the Ukrainian STI 2025 foresight exercise a clear orientation toward integration into the EU is deemed the best way for an effective modernization of the national science and technology system. The competitiveness imperative enshrined in the Lisbon Strategy is tackled in the exercise Imagineering Ireland – Future Scenarios for 2030: the future of Ireland is seen as being strongly linked with the future of the EU. A common integrated European policy in the maritime sector is the starting point of the exercise Malta Marine 2020. The foresight exercise East German Cross Border Regions, also considering cross-border regions in Poland and the Czech Republic, aims to initiate cross-border innovation strategies to further the development of the regional economy.
The analysis of the ERA dimension in the foresight exercises revealed that the Lisbon goals and raising the R&D intensity is a major concern in many foresight exercises. Due to the increasing R&D competition at the global scale, cooperation between research institutions – also beyond national borders – has become increasingly important.

Furthermore, several European scenarios have been developed as the basis for drawing up national or regional scenarios within foresight exercises. Yet, there are quite a few cases where the foresight exercise makes no connection to the European dimension and recommendations mainly focus on the local level of implementation.
This ‘myopia’ concerning the European dimension hardly comes unexpected given that national and sub-national
exercises are typically framed to address local settings. The social and cultural aspects of the EU’s role have rarely been a core feature examined in foresight studies. The social fabric of the EU states with their beliefs and needs has been of explicit concern to only a few exercises (Imagineering Ireland – Future Scenarios for 2030; Futur Radar 2030; Aufbruch Musik – German Music 2020). Though coming from different thematic backgrounds, they all broach the demise of traditional values,customs and beliefs and the need for developing new ones.

Conclusions

The interpretation of the challenge facing the EU in strengthening its importance worldwide includes a wide range of perspectives as expressed in the respective European Commission documents. From a first scan and analysis of relevant foresight studies it can be argued that this challenge is definitely not a core subject of discussion in foresight exercises. This is not surprising given their national, regional or local focus. However, upon close scrutiny, it can be claimed that the foresight studies do indeed cover all the different aspects and perspectives relevant to this challenge. Adopting a greater role worldwide is perceived as a necessity for the EU to successfully cope with the consequences associated with globalisation, the changing interactions between world regions and the rise of new global players. Accordingly, it is also seen as imperative for the EU to play a leading role in international cooperation to deal with global challenges. Some consider the European model as a suitable model of governance
for the developing world even though the success of the EU model of socio-economic development is being aspired to
and at the same time threatened by the so-called new rising global powers.

Authors: Effie Amanatidou amanatidou@atlantisresearch.gr
Type: Overview Brief
Date of Brief: February 2008

Sources and References

  • EFMN WP4 Team Report: Genesis of the EFMN issues short-list 2007, First Step: Analysis of EFMN Brief along ERA-related criteria.
  • European Commission, C(2007)2460 of 11 June 2007; SEC(2007) 1188 final, http://ec.europa.eu/budget/reform/issues/article_5958_en.htm.
  • Leonard, M. (2005), Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century,Fourth Estate (book review by Stephen Aguilar-
    Millan / European Futures Observatory:http://www.eufo.org/index_files/Page631.htm).
  • Popper, R., Keenan, M., Miles, I., Butter, M., Sainz, G. (2007),EFMN Mapping Global Foresight Outlook 2007 Report.
  • Rifkin, J. (2004), The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American
    Dream, Polity Press, (book review by Stephen Aguilar-Millan/ European Futures Observatory: http://www.eufo.org/index_files/Page349.htm).
  • Rijkers-Defrasne, S., Korte, S., Pechmann, A., Amanatidou,E., Psarra, F. (2007), EFMN Issue Analysis Final Report 2007 – Emerging Knowledge-based Economy and Society.

Selection of foresight studies analysed
Finnish Committee for the Future – Democracy and Futures (2006); Global Trade Integration and Outsourcing (2006); Globalisation and Macroeconomic Policy (2007); Globalisation Trends
(2006).
Austrian BMVIT Safety and Security Research 2011; Danish Teknologisk Fremsyn 2020; East German Cross Border Regions; Emerging S+T Priorities in the Triadic Regions; FinnSight 2015; FISTERA; Foresight for Rural Ireland 2025; Futur Radar 2030; FutuRIS; German Music 2020; Imagineering Ireland
– Future Scenarios for 2030; Malta Marine 2020; SCOPE 2015 Project; Technologies Clés 2010; Transport and Mobility in an Enlarged Europe 2020; Ukrainian STI 2025.

Download: EFMN Brief No. 133_EU_’s_Role

EFP Brief No. 112: Démarche Prospective Transport 2050 – For a Better French Transport Policy

Friday, May 20th, 2011

This foresight initiative intends to initiate the elaboration of a long-term strategic plan for French Transport policy. The exercise uses a French methodological approach to carry out retrospective analysis of historical trends and build quantitative scenarios. It provides general insights on transportation flows and opens public debate on public policies designed to prepare for the “post-oil” era and cre-ate impulses for a serious effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.

EFMN Brief No. 112 – Transport France 2050

EFP Brief No. 98: Technology and Innovation in Flanders

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Knowledge and innovation are the key factors in ensuring Flanders’ future prosperity and welfare. The government, companies and knowledge institutions must join forces to create focus and critical mass in strategic areas that strengthen Flanders’ competitive position and offer potentially substantial social benefits. Foresight studies are an excellent means of linking science and technology with innovation in industry and society while at the same time creating a decision-supporting framework for regional innovation policy and its relationship with regional economic developments.

EFMN Brief No. 98 – Technology and Innovation in Flanders

EFP Brief No. 91: Government and Corporate Social Responsibility 2020

Friday, May 20th, 2011

While corporate social responsibility is increasingly requested in order to respond to current environmental challenges and threats to public health, the ISIS group of the Commissariat Général du Plan of the French Government (“The Plan”) analyses trends in corporate behaviour as well as regulatory principles underlying sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Beyond this, the ISIS group explores future issues in different sectors in order to illustrate existing junctions and differences. Based on this prospective analysis, ISIS built four strategic scenarios for state intervention to make an inventory of tools to urge enterprises encompassing social and environmental issues in their schemes for economic development.

EFMN Brief No. 91 – Government and Corporate Social Responsibility 2020

EFP Brief No. 33: Austrian Safety and Security Research 2011

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Austria intends to launch a national research programme on safety and security that is complimentary to PASR – an EU funded Preparatory Action on Security Research as well as the upcoming Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union. To prepare the ground for this new national research funding initiative, a foresight process was started to investigate conceptual issues concerning safety and security research and to identify Austrian priorities for research in this area. This initiative was coordinated by the Federal Ministry for Transportation, Innovation and Technology of Austria.

EFMN Brief No. 33 – Austrian Safety and Security Research 2011

EFP Brief No. 25: The Chemical Industry in Flanders – Towards 2010

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The chemical sector in Flanders-Belgium is among the largest in Europe and the petrochemical centre around the port of Antwerp is the second largest in the world. This foresight study intends to contribute to maintaining and even strengthening the competitiveness of this sector in the future. The approach was to:

  • Identify and map future scientific and technological developments in the chemical sector from a socio-economical perspective,
  • Offer companies in the chemical sector in particular their R&D managers, a window-of-opportunity through which to gain a longterm perspective on the industry and anticipate their future needs in terms of RTD capacity.

EFMN Brief No. 25 – The Chemical Industry in Flanders – Towards 2010

EFP Brief No. 6: Foresight Vehicle Technology Roadmap 2020 Technology and Research Directions for Future Road Vehicles

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The exercise had the goal of identifying market and industry trends and drivers for the automotive sector over a 20 year time horizon. In addition, performance measures and targets for the road transport system were defined. The technologies needed to meet these targets and the research required to deliver them were discussed. This foresight exercise was carried out in the context of a £100M programme whose current phase started in 2001 with a revision in 2003.

EFMN Brief No. 6 – Foresight Vehicle Technology Roadmap 2020

EFP Brief No. 4: Anticipating Change for Europe’s Industries 2020 to 2025

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Consistent with its overall mission to encourage a more anticipatory approach to dealing with change, the Industry Sector Futures initiative of the EMCC offers analyses and insights at a sectoral and European level on drivers of change, scenarios for sector futures and key policy issues and implications that will affect the future of industry sectors in Europe.

EFMN Brief No. 4 – Anticipating Change for Europes Industries 2020 to 2025