Oettinger plans energy roadshow amid doubts on EU communication

Oettinger Energy 2020.JPG

As experts increasingly express doubts about the EU's "hesitations" and communications failures, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has announced plans for an "energy roadshow".

"Like stock markets do a roadshow, we should outline the potential of investments in energy infrastructure," Oettinger told a European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) conference.

It would take place "in the context of the legislative proposal on infrastructure we will present before the summer," he added.

Stern warning

His speech came a day after Nicholas Stern, the British economist and academic who outlined the economics of climate change, called on the EU to improve the way climate action was communicated.

"We have not yet been persuasive enough," Stern told the European Parliament. "We can and should do better in marketing and making our arguments."

"The risks we are dealing with are immense, essentially existential in terms of the relations between humans and the planet."

Without action now, Stern put the chances of five-degree global warming by the end of the century at between 30-50%. The last time the planet was so hot was 30 million years ago.

That was why what he called "hesitations" by Europe and "stepping back" by the United States on the actions needed to counter climate change were "so worrying".

In a wide-ranging address, Stern berated "market failures" that were not fairly apportioning the costs of carbon, the halving of research and development spending since the 1980s, and the inability of capital markets to provide long-term investment risk allocations.

Lack of transparency was "a classic market failure," he said. It is also one that the proposed roadshow might be expected to address.

Bringing investors closer to projects

The EU energy commissioner's spokesperson declined an interview about the new initiative. But the official sent EURACTIV an email explaining Oettinger's thinking.

"The idea behind it is that people who are ready to invest shall be brought closer to investment projects in the sense that their attention is brought to huge investment projects in the field of energy," the message read.

"The Commission could play the role as a facilitator and EU co-ordinator of such 'roadshows'."

The ultimate goal would be to "raise money and push for investment" for "project promoter/holders".

Green MEP Bas Eickhout welcomed the move as "a good step" but warned that it should not distract from the binding measures that were needed to address Europe's lagging energy efficiency targets.

"It seems that the commissioner is using these kinds of roadshow to talk about the issue, flag the issue but not act on the issue," he said. "It's time for action."

In his speech, Stern had also stressed the need to make the case that, in the context of imminent investment by China in renewable energies, low carbon was the growth story of our age.

"High-carbon growth is eventually a contradiction in terms," he said. "It kills itself. That's the story that policymakers have to tell."   

Asked whether the roadshow would convey a similar message, the commissioner's spokesperson would only write in reply: "We do not sell ideas, business plans or specific energy infrastructure projects." 

Communicating with EU citizens has long been a primary concern of the European Commission. That need has only grown with time, following attacks from Eurosceptic media around the continent and rejections of the EU constitution by French, Dutch and Irish voters.

For more information, see EURACTIV LinksDossier on EU communication policy.

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