Nav: Home

New assessment finds EU electricity decarbonization discourse in need of overhaul

November 18, 2019

It's well known that the EU is focusing its efforts on decarbonizing its economy. In many respects, Germany's Energiewende personifies the poster child of that effort. Unfortunately, substantial investments in the Energiewende have not yet yielded significant reductions in GHG emissions and political disillusionment has emerged as an unwelcome result. Decarbonization efforts in other European countries risk making similar blunders unless the contemporary EU policy discourse is thoroughly cross-examined.

A new paper, published last week in Energy Research & Social Science, calls into question the credibility of electricity decarbonization narratives in Europe. The work, authored by researchers Ansel Renner and Mario Giampietro of ICTA-UAB in Barcelona, proposes a novel methodological approach for the study of complex issues such as electricity decarbonization.

"Quantitative story-telling," explains Renner, "is a rejection of our shared Reductionist upbringings. It embraces the discipline of complex systems analysis and, in the context of European electricity decarbonization, brings to light a number of serious causes for concern."

Defibrillating the socio-technical discourse

Renner and Giampietro's paper identifies the Achilles' heel of the EU decarbonization policy discourse to be the hyperfixation of that discourse on structural change. It is highly unlikely, the study finds, that the "EU's heroic transition" will result successful unless that transition substantially increases its engagement with functional societal change. Such a change implies moving from questioning what technologies are "made of" to questioning what technologies are "made for". For example, it may not be wise to assume that advances in solar photovoltaic technologies--coupled with the highly anticipated advent of electric vehicles and smart grids--will suffice to realize radical decarbonization in the immediate future. Instead, it may be wise to spend equal effort on policies that motivate use changes, including, for example, reductions in long-distance travel as well as the sharing of cars and apartments.

"When I was an undergraduate," remarks Giampietro, "universities had entire departments tasked with the study of energetics. Unfortunately for us, that field has since been systematically eliminated. Our study attempts to reinvigorate the contemporary discourse on decarbonization by identifying a number of 'elephants in the room' inspired by energetics."

The paper is also part of a greater cause and mission statement--that of the EU Horizon 2020 project Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity (MAGIC). The MAGIC project has been working closely with European policymakers over the past three years, building a strong résumé of heterodox analysis informing the resource nexus. More information and studies on and about water-energy-food resource security in Europe are available on the project website.

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Related Energy Articles:

First measurement of electron energy distributions, could enable sustainable energy technologies
To answer a question crucial to technologies such as energy conversion, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Liverpool in the UK have figured out a way to measure how many 'hot charge carriers' -- for example, electrons with extra energy -- are present in a metal nanostructure.
Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.
Scientists: Estonia has the most energy efficient new nearly zero energy buildings
A recent study carried out by an international group of building scientists showed that Estonia is among the countries with the most energy efficient buildings in Europe.
Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.
Harvesting energy from walking human body Lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester develop
A research team led by Professor Wei-Hsin Liao from the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed a lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester for scavenging energy from human motion, generating inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.
How much energy do we really need?
Two fundamental goals of humanity are to eradicate poverty and reduce climate change, and it is critical that the world knows whether achieving these goals will involve trade-offs.
New discipline proposed: Macro-energy systems -- the science of the energy transition
In a perspective published in Joule on Aug. 14, a group of researchers led by Stanford University propose a new academic discipline, 'macro-energy systems,' as the science of the energy transition.
How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.
Energy from seawater
A new battery made from affordable and durable materials generates energy from places where salt and fresh waters mingle.
Shifts to renewable energy can drive up energy poverty, PSU study finds
Efforts to shift away from fossil fuels and replace oil and coal with renewable energy sources can help reduce carbon emissions but do so at the expense of increased inequality, according to a new Portland State University study
More Energy News and Energy Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at