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The Interactions of Business and NGOs in Securing Sustainable Energy Supplies in Europe

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Despite the title of this chapter, there is in fact no – or very limited – interaction between businesses and European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the development of renewable energies in Europe. This is a reality that is quite frankly, astonishing. However, when it comes to the renewable energies dossier everything seems to be surprising. Renewable energies are obviously an issue relevant to the public interest. For an issue like this, one would have expected transparency and clarity to be the rule, satisfying the public's curiosity. Yet this is not the case. In reality, the renewable energies dossier is ambiguous and opaque. At every single stage, one needs to ask who is telling the truth, and who is manipulating whom?

Important questions to ask include: are businesses manipulating NGOs? Is this manipulation occurring because NGOs are naïve and generally reactive rather than proactive? Is the European Commission objective and neutral when it comes to the renewable energies dossier? Are the principles of European governance (public consultation and impact assessment) respected in formulating renewable energy policy? If the answers to these questions are yes, are the conclusions the Commission comes to objectively justifiable? What is the real potential for the development of supplies of renewable energies? What is the impact of renewable energies on the environment and on the price of food? What is the real financial cost of renewable energy? What are the second and third generation biofuels like, and when will they be on the market? These questions are fundamental, however in practice scientists, policy-makers and the public do not have an answer. Mystery surrounds each one of these questions. Why? I argue that it is a mystery easy to solve.

The renewable energy dossier is replete with questions and can only offer limited, uncertain and fragmented answers. I have personally been involved with the renewable energies supplies issue since 1975, and I have to admit that I feel particularly uncomfortable at the moment. It has prompted me to question some basic tenets of my understanding of the subject matter. In order to avoid interpreting recent events incorrectly, I met and consulted with some leading actors in the field. Rather than being a source of reassurance, these meetings left me with a distinct sense of unease.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Energy and the Environmental Challenge
    Bringing together eminent Australian, European and Russian experts and practitioners, this volume makes an important contribution to the crucial debates on climate change and energy that will have a profound impact on all our futures. The problems faced by business, scientists, NGOs, policymakers and researchers are multifaceted and complex in nature, so a comprehensive treatment of the subject is best undertaken by a diverse and multi-skilled group. The authors explore different approaches and experiences in securing sustainable energy supplies in Europe and Australia, while heeding the interplay between public policy, science, business and environmental groups. On the threshold of an era of carbon taxing and energy thrift, the views of the authors on the future evolution of our relationship with energy are as insightful as they are thought-provoking.
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