Be Creative, But Be Responsible
October 31, 2013
by Paweł Olechnowicz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Central Europe Energy Partners (CEEP).
Slowly—too slowly, considering the pace of change in the modern world—a common perspective on the future of the European energy sector is emerging. Although various components of the strategy for the next 20-30 years are under discussion, arriving at a uniform concept for the sector is harder than just collecting the numerical data. An exhausting debate is under way in which national and industry interests interweave, the needs of energy suppliers and energy consumers collide, historical conflicts re-emerge, and various visions of the future come to light. Noble ideas which stir the imagination of millions and are regarded with interest by the general public are confronted by economic reality and people’s actual, everyday needs.
This is a debate which forces us to be both creative and responsible, to maintain equilibrium at all stages of the strategy’s development as well as during its future implementation. A lack of balance in an economy, as in the life of an individual, leads to higher costs, troubling inconveniences and disappointments.
Any debate about the future of a united Europe in the energy sector encompasses three distinct issues which are interconnected and need to be addressed jointly. These are the end costs of energy, energy security, and global considerations—matters which concern the entire population of the planet, such as global warming and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The conclusion of the debate will depend on whether its participants are able to see beyond their personal interests. The energy sector is shaped by political, economic and financial factors and is also a source of strong emotions, attracting considerable attention from the public. This makes the debate particularly difficult, and means that it has to be conducted all the more professionally and in the spirit of creativity and responsibility for the decisions it will enforce. There are no winners and losers in this game. At the end of the day, everyone leaving the debating chamber should feel victorious.
And so it is with a sense of satisfaction that I see Central Europe Energy Partners, both as an organization and as its individual members, invariably presenting such a prudent and responsible approach. In the three years since CEEP was established, we have presented our views on the future of the energy sector, as well as concepts for mature and highly professional solutions, at dozens of large conferences, symposia and think tanks. This voice of authenticity and experience offers—and not only in my opinion—valuable input regarding our continent’s future in the energy sector.
Energy costs are of the utmost importance to Europe, as energy is inherent in the costs of all products and services. The more power-hungry the industry is, the greater the impact of energy costs on the final product price, which all of us, as consumers, must pay. Europe cannot look for any savings in the area of pay and social benefits. These are high, and will remain so, as the nations of the Old Continent have become accustomed to their welfare over generations, and will not allow it to be taken away so easily. Instead, we must look for competitiveness elsewhere, perhaps to the most innovative products and services that are also affordable, thanks to their rationalized energy costs, among other things. This is a task for both politicians and businessmen, and although the amount of fuel taxation depends on the lawmakers’ will, the rationalization of production, transport, and manufacturing should also be approached in an intelligent way. Maybe I am too much an optimist, but I believe that the awareness of these simple dependencies has become more widespread.
Secondly, the security of our energy supply is the absolute priority for us, and we must all strive to ensure this. I am aware that it may prove impossible to eliminate the conflicts of interest of the energy suppliers and their customers, but this doesn’t mean that this cannot also be rationalized, so that any tensions and disputes are kept among market participants, and not made the subject of geopolitical conflicts. For this to be possible, it is not only good will that is necessary, but also an understanding of all market participants’ interests. We all depend on each other, and we will be more successful if we fight less and cooperate more. I would like to remind you that Central Europe Energy Partners was established to make it easier to reach this, and other shared goals, in the European energy sector.
The last but by no means least important area is that of mankind’s common problems—global warming and the control of human activity contributing to the climate warming process. To best serve our common interests, we must pay the costs of protecting nature and the climate. We must reduce emissions and restructure our energy mix so that it is least burdensome to the natural environment. This is indisputable. And I would also like to think that another view is considered indisputable.
In pursuing emissions reductions, we must not allow ourselves to curtail Europe’s chances of competing on global markets, and above all, we must not condemn the new member states (the so-called EU11), to last position in the European development and welfare race. In 2011, annual GDP per capita in the “old” EU15 stood at 29,100 euros. In Central Europe, annual GDP per capita was three times lower, at only 9,500 euros. Even worse is that the gap hasn’t narrowed for the last eight years.
Meanwhile, the strategy for the energy sector laid out by the Energy Road Map 2050 provides for a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions throughout the European Union, irrespective of the different development conditions in each member state. The imposition of the planned limits will not allow us to narrow the income gap between the two parts of the Community, and even threatens to widen the gap.
This may result in the creation of long-term tensions which are not needed in modern Europe. We have all the means necessary to make the EU a global economic superpower, commanding respect with the level of its technologies and ability to generate sustained innovative growth.
I sincerely believe that during November’s COP 19 climate summit in Warsaw we will manage to find a compromise between ecology and business so that the European and global economies can grow dynamically in step with environmental protection goals.