European Union

Russia‘s Energy Chains of Value and Power — Margarita Balmaceda (Ep. 37)

This week we speak with Professor Margarita M. Balmaceda about her new book, Russian Energy Chains (2021), published by Columbia University Press, as part of the Woodrow Wilson Center series. She was on the My Energy 2050 podcast in episode 12. And we are very grateful for her to come back for launching her new book. We managed to meet in person during her visit to Budapest this week. But as you’ll hear, our conversation moves rapidly around the issues of fossil fuels and the value chains that extend from Russia all the way to Germany.

Margarita was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as her profile at, Seton Hall University states,  “her professional life has centered in the USA and Eastern Europe.” But as we know from her previous publications, on Eastern Europe, including ‘Living the High Life in Minsk’ and ‘The Politics of Energy Dependency’, in addition to numerous journal articles, she is a leading scholar on Post Soviet issues and places involving the energy sector. She is also an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. Overall, because of her research and insight, she should be nominated as an honorary citizen of the Post-Soviet world.

Her book, Russian Energy Chains will be the leading and most authoritative book on the subject of post-Soviet energy relations. What does that mean and why is it important?

Margarita Balmaceda

This podcast is focused on the energy transition. By having Margarita document the value flows – that is who benefits and who doesn’t of the flow of oil, gas, and coal from the Russian heartland to Europe, she documents a way of life and of profits from fossil fuel extraction. And as we address toward the end of the interview, a way of life and means of governance will be under threat as the EU and other countries implement strong policies to move away from the fossil fuel era.

The point here is the topic of understanding the value created from fossil fuel extraction, shipping and usage demonstrate – as she outlines in chapter 1 – the role of power relations in the energy system. If we hope to phase out fossil fuels, we will need to address these power relations of the old (fossil fuel) order and the new (renewable) order. Russia – and the relations between EU Member States hold a strong rooting in energy – this relationship will need to be renegotiated and Margarita’s book lays down what these relations were built on, and the areas where they could change.

Links

Profile Margarita Balmaceda – Seton Hall University (shu.edu)

Amazon.com: Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Woodrow Wilson Center Series) eBook : Balmaceda, Margarita M.: Kindle Store

Climate Capitalism: Shifting to Green Growth – Michael LaBelle (Ep. 31)

Climate Capitalism is a model pushed by the threat of losing technological and political dominance by the loss of social support for capitalistic modes of production. 

Making Romania Fit for 55 — Radu Dudau

potential to build a strong renewable energy portfolio with a good natural environment in the Danube Delta and investor interests.  The European Commission wants to push the country towards 40% of renewables in the next few years. In short, Romania holds the potential to shift away from coal and embrace renewables.

The Life of a Global Energy Pioneer — Agata de Ru

This week we speak with Agata de Ru who is a Portfolio Manager of the South and Eastern European Region for the Clean Air Fund. In this episode, we take a different turn and go into Agata’s background of moving from a Polish NGO to Shell and then her decision to do an MBA in the United States. We learn about her experience working for a US energy start-up. We learn about her decision to leave the US behind and move to Nigeria and join up with local organizations and businesses working with farmers and delivering solar power to consumers across a number of countries.  

Before we begin, I want to give a bit some background. Agata and I have known each other for ten years. We were part of the first batch of ELEEP members. This is the Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy Network, which began as an initiative of the Atlantic Council and Ecologic and which was funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the European Commission. This was a great trans-Atlantic initiative as it really brought together a range of younger people who are still in contact today. Looking back, we can say all of them have built on their ELEEP initiative to shape their lives and careers. My point is these types of initiatives that bring people together in a loosely structured way really make a difference.  

As we’ll learn from Agata, her work in Europe, the US and Africa built on her ELEEP experience. And it is here where we get to the point of the MyEnergy2050 podcast. We like to share both the knowledge and experience of people making a difference. Understanding how and why people make decisions in their lives to build a better energy system assists all of us in transforming the energy system.  

My request to you this week is to help us spread the message of the MyEnergy2050 podcast. Please share this episode or others on LinkedIn or Twitter. We grow by word of mouth. And the longer we do this, our message is becoming clearer. It takes dedication of personal commitment to build and deliver a cleaner energy system. So let’s make this happen together. 

Leaving no home unheated – Dora Fazekas

How can households afford heating and transport in a low-carbon Europe? Today we speak with Dora Fazekas, the managing director of Cambridge Econometrics in Hungary. Their consultancy just released a scenario report with the European Climate Foundation, outlining the higher costs for households if the price of greenhouse gas emissions rise.  

In this interview we cover a range of issues, such as, how understanding the different national energy practices influence how energy is produced and consumed.  

We delve into an almost anthropological view of the benefits from researching and living in the same place.  

Then we get into the research scenario report on transport and heating. The scenarios demonstrate the impact of rising prices for the European trading system for emissions. The future demonstrates the price of energy will go up. Households are foreseen to be struggling unless a greater political effort is made to assist those with lower incomes.  

My take-away from our discussion is Europe is heading for a very expensive energy system to meet its climate change goals for 2050. The burden will fall on poorer households. The warning signs are already here for national governments and the EU, action is needed to ensure households can afford this transition.  

The study provides different national comparisons and we discuss the impact in Poland and Germany. The scenarios demonstrate that coal, or even a switch to gas for heating, will be a very expensive options in the future.  

In the end, we get back to the unattractive and unexciting option of energy efficiency as the way forward.   Subsidies for energy poor households are needed. While the rich can afford the transition, it is those with meager incomes that cannot afford it. 

Here, I want to interject the importance of this topic. The scenarios are based on data and envision a future where the poor struggle to pay for heating and all their energy usage. If the EU wants to be the enforcer of climate change goals, they also need to ensure effective policies are in place. There cannot be an opening for radical populist politicians to derail, steal, or use climate change policies as a means to undermine democracy. If the stated goal is creating a zero carbon future then ensuring affordable access to energy needs to be the priority. Focusing only on price and market mechanisms will leave too many people behind and derail the effort. 

The History – and future of Energy Efficiency in Europe – Rod Janssen

In this episode, we speak with Rod Janssen, a long time expert who began his career after the oil crisis of the 1970s. Rod may have decades of experience, but he is still young and stays active with the latest research and policy developments in energy efficiency. 

I wanted to have Rod on to discuss both the recent history around energy efficiency and whether EU policy is making an impact. As you’ll hear we are a bit critical of the EU and the Member States for the lack of progress.  

There are a number of terms that will probably be new to the listener and not everyone may know them. The first is USAID, which is the United States Agency for International Development. It sounds like an organization for Africa, but it was active in Eastern Europe – and still is in non-EU member states. After countries in the East joined the EU, USAID moved on, thinking the EU would assist in development. We have a few words to say on how well the EU took on its role to promote energy efficiency. 

We discuss the ‘acquis’, which is  “the body of common rights and obligations that are binding on all EU countries”, which now is being stressed by some countries. But there was a time when the former Communist countries transformed their economies and legislation to make it look like they could be good EU members. They did a tremendous amount of good in revamping public administration and shifting economies onto a market footing. 

Rod and I discuss these topics and we also cover how energy efficiency policy making has changed in the EU and where it is going. That 2050 goal? Is enough being done? Rod has an opinion. Community engagement? We discuss this too.

The Reality of Imaginaries in Swedish Green Transport – Amelia Mutter

Welcome to the MyEnergy2050 podcast where we speak to the people building a clean energy system by 2050. I’m your host, Michael LaBelle. In this episode, we are speaking with Amelia Mutter a Researcher at the Division of Environmental Communications at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The reason to have Amelia on was to discuss her research comparing biogas and electric transport options in Sweden. As you’ll hear, we have a great discussion and really delve into the following topics: 

  • How and why she did do a PhD on imaginaries on biogas and electric vehicles in Sweden. For those not familiar with the concept of ‘imaginaries’, don’t turn off yet, the application of imaginaries can help you understand how technology is accepted or rejected by people and policymakers. 
  • Are goals for 2030 really attainable in just a few more years? Will we have the transport infrastructure and deployed technologies to meet our goals? 
  • We discuss the interesting and dynamic network of resources and outputs that a biogas facility provides.  
  • Why technology lock-in may not be a bad thing when it leads to further innovation. 
  • And finally, why it is important to understand the everyday design justifications for our transport modes. We learn about the different needs of long-range buses compared to city buses.  

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to spread knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future. If you enjoy this episode or any episode, please share it. The more we spread our message of the ease of an energy transition, the faster we can make the transition. And now for this week’s episode. 

Putting Energy into Practice – Pandemics and Brexit – Andrew Judge

On this episode of the myenergy2050 podcast, we are speaking with Andy Judge, lecturer in international relations and deputy head of Politics and International Relations at the University of Glasgow.

In the first part of the episode, we cover energy as a topic of study–how teaching energy prompts and imposition into new teaching methods. And as a means to convey our research, we drive home the point there is great importance in learning to communicate complex energy topics into understandable summaries for normal people.

Later, we delve into the non-existent topic of Brexit and energy. It is not exciting, and this is the best part because the energy system between the UK and EU countries continues to operate like normal. The lack of crisis means the energy relations are still working. And this is something for us to pay attention to. We cover the potential independence of Scotland and its ability to rejoin the EU.

Lastly, we discuss Andy’s cutting edge co-research into pandemics, elites and energy, which turns out he was doing pandemics before the present pandemic, which means for me, we need to listen to Andy because he knows what’s coming. before it comes. We discuss his latest research into elite messaging around pandemics that stay at home order. Having no choice turns out to be the only choice for politicians to control the pandemic.

The EU’s Green Deal: A revolution for society and business? – Simone Tagliapietra

This week we speak with Simone Tagliapietra, a research fellow at Bruegel. We discussed the broader research shift from an energy security perspective, just how society and politics shape the energy system. For Simone, the broader focus allows us to address how we can mitigate climate change.

With Simone, we delve into the European Union’s Green Deal and spend time looking at the new green industrial strategy of the EU. This includes understanding how the industry plays a role in the transition with the green industry, which is essential for the EU’s competitiveness in the future.

We then move on to discuss the social impact the energy transition has on communities in the EU, and how politics and community involvement is key to the success of the Green Deal. Simone addresses the role that international finance can play to assist developing countries create their own sustainable energy system.

Electricity Markets for the Masses – Leonardo Meeus

This week we are speaking with Leonardo Meeus. He is the professor of strategy and director of the Energy Center at Vlerick Business School in Brussels. He is also the deputy director of the Florence School of Regulation, and professor at the European University Institute in Florence. He has numerous academic articles on regulation and market design. his new book just came out in 2020, the evolution of electricity market design in Europe with Edward Elgar Publishing.

And today we’ll be asking him questions about his book and about how Europe’s electricity market works. And the institutions involved in developing an EU wide electricity market.

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