Nuclear energy and path dependence in Europe’s
‘Energy union’: coherence or continued divergence?
|Author||A.Lawrence, B.Sovacool, A.Stirling|
|Classification||6.01.2.15/51 (NP & GREENHOUSE EFFECT - CO2 REDUCTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE)|
From the publication:
Since its initial adoption, the EU’s 2020 Strategy – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings of 20% or more by 2020 – has witnessed substantial albeit uneven progress. This article addresses the question of what role nuclear power generation has played, and can or should play in future, towards attaining the EU 2020 Strategy, particularly with reference to decreasing emissions and increasing renewables. It also explores the persistent diversity in energy strategies among member states. To do so, it first surveys the current landscape of nuclear energy use and then presents the interrelated concepts of path dependency, momentum, and lock-in. The article proceeds to examine five factors that help explain national nuclear divergence: technological capacity and consumption; economic cost; security and materiality; national perceptions; and political, ideological and institutional factors. This divergence reveals a more general weakness in the 2020 Strategy’s underlying assumptions. Although energy security – defined as energy availability, reliability, affordability, and sustainability – remains a vital concern for all member states, the 2020 Strategy does not explicitly address questions of political participation, control, and power. The inverse relationship identified here – between intensity of nuclear commitments, and emissions mitigation and uptake of renewable sources – underscores the importance of increasing citizens’ levels of energy policy awareness and participation in policy design.