After the Fukushima Daiichi I accident in Japan, 2011, the challenges that nuclear energy faced around the world were related to: the safety of the power plants, if there were any measures capable to prevent or deal with accidents; the human and environmental security, since the Japanese population had suffered due to the contamination of water, soil and air, and also; the energy security, which received many impacts due to black outs, inaccessibility to electricity, environmental damage for further generations based on natural resources and last, to the improvement of GHG emissions.
But the point which is highlighted here is the deep effects over energy security policies around the world. Right after the melt down of the vessels, Germany, one of the most important countries in the world due to their economy and energy policies, decided to phase-out nuclear energy. The explanation is that it was a matter of security for the country, and that “is not possible to exclude a residual risk of nuclear energy” (EMBAIXADA, 2016). Nonetheless, the nuclear phase-out was not the only aim pursued by Germany, it also intended to overcome the lack of energy supply in the country, as well as moving to a different paradigm of energy generation (AGORA, 2015).
This political endeavors resulted on a new German energy policy called Energiewende. The key Energiewende targets are related with: reducing the GHG emissions in all energy sectors compared to 1990; the gradual nuclear phase-out until 2022; boosting the sharing of renewable as final consumption and total consumption of energy, and at last; improving energy efficiency by reducing the primary energy and total consumption of electricity compared to 2008 (AGORA, 2015). To fulfill this targets requires lots of political measures that really tackle the core on how electricity is produced, consumed and transported in Germany. However, despite all the criticism received nationally and internationally, the country’s commitment exposes its concern over the energy security and also in combatting the effects caused by climate changes (MORRIS e PEHNT, 2016; JOAS, PAHLE, et al., 2016).
If compared total energy generation in 2010, the previous year to the new energy policy and the data of 2016, it is possible to see that the sharing of renewable energies has doubled in percentage. In 2010 the renewable shared rate was 17% of total energy which, because of the political endeavors, grew to 35% (FRAUNHOFER, 2016). Those efforts are related to the growth of total capacity installed of wind and solar power, the most important energy generation for this transition.
Gráfico 1 – Total installed capacity of some countries in Europe
Source: Elaborated by the author based on the data from the European Commision (2016)
Energiewende is driving to a new paradigm of energy production, but not only for Germany. It could also be affirmed that this change relates to the European Union. Regarding Europe as a small continent, the one’s energy policy impacts their neighbors and could model the form that the energy is faced on a distinguish cluster. The president of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, understands energy and diplomacy as inseparable issues in Europe but it requires a better alignment of this policies. As he says “Energy policy is European security policy” (AMELANG, 2015, p. 1), and that an energy transition in a European level has the possibility to overcome this problem.
Energy in Europe is a central problem and the Energiewende appears as a possibility to implement a new framework to attend the demand of policies for this sector. At the first glance, the actions took by Germany developed an isolation in the region, because the changes were made for the country. However, as the evolution of the policy started to go faster, it overflowed the national perspective and it started to reach the region. Two hypotheses could be highlighted: some believe in a Europeanization of Energiewende as a path to overcome the problem of energy security and climate change (LIEDTKE, 2015; FISCHER e GEDEN, 2011), others believe that Germany exerts a leadership in Europe, arranging followers and guiding them to a new energy transition (STEINBACHER e PAHLE, 2015).
About these two hypotheses, there are some important comments. The Europeanization idea regards over the concept that, on the one hand, EU norms and rules are communicated among the members and this could cause changes on the behavior of the States. Which means that a State-member is required to attend to the decisions taken on the European level in order to generate a stabilization or an institutionalization of common acts, reducing the misunderstanding and policies that do not respond to the EU pattern (BULMER e LEQUESNE, 2002). On the other hand, actions taken domestically could cause some regional or international effects, moving the neighbor states into a process of imitation. Which means that, considering the power or level of influence of such actors in the EU, some kinds of behavior which apparently generate benefits for one, the other States see it as a model to be followed in order to achieve a similar achievement (TSARDANIDIS e STAVRIDIS, 2005).
The process of Europeanization is on the foundation of the European Union. On a first glance, the European Community for Steal and Coal (ECSC) was the starting point on the path to a EU, because, as long as they had a problem with the supply of these goods, they cooperated with the aim on establishing conditions for a controlled use of them, improving the employment and avoiding economic dangers. Further, other examples of Europeanization, does not matter the form, could be analyzed through the story of EU consolidation such as the EURATOM (in 1957) or Energy Union (in 2015) (LAGSDORF, 2011).
The other hypothesis regards on the German leadership on the European level. Despite the supposed isolation of the country in the EU, due to the quick evolution of some individual results like the improvements of electricity connected lines, the nuclear energy phase-out and the reduction of GHG emissions, some argue that is a common behavior among leaderships. Chancellor Angela Merkel exposed the Energiewende as a project which is going to present to the world the possibilities to tackle the current energy generation paradigm.
“There is no other comparable country in the world that tackles such a radical change of its energy supply (…). But let‘s not fool ourselves: the world is looking at us with a mix of incomprehension and curiosity to see if it is possible for us to accomplish this energy transition and if so, how. If we succeed, it will become – and I am convinced of this – another prominent German export. And I am also convinced that if this energy transition can be accomplished in a country, it’s Germany.” (STEINBACHER e PAHLE, 2015, p. 2)
The objectives put on track by Energiewende and the way they are communicated in the international level allow the country to position itself as a leader for energy policies primarily in the EU and then in the world. There could be a reproduction of some similar practices into an energy transition for the EU, and further, into a better energy security policy for the region, based on the energy paradigm with secondary impacts on climate policies (STEINBACHER e PAHLE, 2015; OZDEMIR, 2014).
In sum, and for the sake of this small space for a brief presentation and discussion, the Germany’s Energiewende has accomplished some achievements through this last six years since it was launched. The way it has been influencing the regional and international level is an important discussion about, and it shows itself as new energy policy for the twenty first century, based on the share of renewable, emissions reduction and boosting access and efficiency. Nevertheless, how Germany is going to exert its power as a regional or international power depends exclusively on how the interaction between the country and its energy allies is, and if this regional spread behavior regards a pattern of following the leader or a new identity construction for the EU.
Sobre os autores
Doutorando em Relações Internacionais pela Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais – PUC-Minas. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Matilde de Souza é Matilde de Souza é professora do Departamento de Relações Internacionais da Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais – PUC-Minas (email@example.com).