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Europe Needs To Rethink ‘Unsustainable’ Energy Policy: Dieter Helm

Alex Froley, Platts

Europe needs to rethink its energy policy to ensure security of supply and competitiveness in the future, focusing more on research and less on expensive existing renewables, Oxford University economist Dieter Helm told the Flame conference in Amsterdam Thursday.

Helm said that Europe’s energy policies were based on a vision of limited and expensive fossil fuels, and hopes that current renewables technologies would become competitive and give rise to new industries for Europe.

But there were major “wake up” calls he said, including events in Ukraine, the lack of investment in energy intensive industry in Europe and rising emissions, now over 400 parts per million, and rising at 3 ppm/year, up from a 1990 rate of 1.0 to 1.5 ppm/year.

Helm said Europe must wait until after Paris 2015 climate talks for decisions on climate goals, rather than taking unilateral action before then.

He said there should be no more renewables targets, and instead serious investment in research and development of next generation renewables, batteries and active demand side participation.

There should be a shift from coal back to gas, he said.

Helm said research was vital: “Existing technologies can’t do the job.” He contrasted UK government funding of only GBP61 million ($103 million) in a new graphene innovation center with hopes to invest GBP100 billion in offshore wind.

“This is nuts,” he said. Graphene could be used in new solar technologies.

Helm said for security of supply more interconnectors were needed, and Europe should look to Norway, north Africa, growing its own conventional and unconventional resources and the southern corridor for new imports.

To restore competitiveness, he said Europe needed to “stop digging a hole with offshore wind” and look to unify grids.

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