“Scarce resources are among the main causes for today’s wars"

Hbs: The concept of “energy security” has received heightened attention in Washington and European capitals since the Ukraine crisis. Is “energy security” just another term for “energy independence”?

Jürgen Trittin: There are some parallels between energy independence and energy security, but they are not identical. On the one hand, import dependency limits your political ability to act and impedes your sovereignty. On the other hand, interdependency can also stabilize a political situation and thereby enhance security.

One of the key lessons from the Ukraine crisis for the European Union is that we have to overcome the complete dependency of some EU member states on imports of gas and electricity from Russia. That means that we need a diversification of energy sources and transits in the European Union. But in my opinion we need to go beyond diversification to reduce the imports of energy as a whole. This can only work with a strategy of promoting renewables and enhancing energy efficiency and promoting energy savings.

What are some of the short-term and long-term measures the EU should take to achieve more energy security?

In the short term, we have to build a greater capacity for a European infrastructure in the electricity and gas sectors. In terms of gas, that means that we need to have better capabilities for reverse flow. For example, Slovakia has already benefited from reverse flow, and now Ukraine benefits from the same measure. We need real European energy grids from Spain via France and Germany to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. We also have to implement measures which guarantee that the EU targets - to reduce greenhouse gases by 2020 to 20%, to enhance renewable energy production to 20% by 2020, and to strengthen energy efficiency to the same level- are being achieved. If we miss these targets, we will not achieve a higher level of energy security.

What role can the European Energy Union play in this?

The Energy Union in its current state is more or less a gas diversification union. There are some good ideas within the European Union already - the targets to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030 while enhancing renewables to 27% and energy efficiency to the same level - but the EU fails to underline these – not very ambitious - goals with concrete measures. Different from the 2020 targets, the 2030 targets are not legally binding. If the decision on the Energy Union passes next year, we need more concrete mandatory measures in order to implement it. A new electricity market design and better regional integration are two ideas that can result in a convergence between national and European energy policies.

Do you see any chance for TTIP to contribute to Europe’s energy security? 

I don’t think that TTIP will play a role in this, because the U.S. will export gas to the EU before the TTIP negotiations are even concluded. These exports can merge the three global gas markets that are currently separated. In many cases, TTIP and its economic effects are being overestimated by those who promote it. The potential problems of TTIP have at the same time been underestimated, for example regarding the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or deregulatory cooperation. If we want to set standards for the world, we should make them as democratic and transparent as possible. We need the rule of democracy not of the markets.

Do you think that TTIP can be crafted in a way which creates a higher environmental standard in both the EU and the U.S.?

In the end we have to structure it so that, for example, investor state disputes should be settled by an international court and not by intransparent private justice.  We do not need regulatory cooperation in democratic societies because we have transparent forms of law making. And these transparent forms of law making on both sides of the Atlantic allow for the participation of civil society and for industries to have a good amount of participation and influence. We don’t need negotiations behind closed doors and new backdoors for lobbies.

You coined the term Energieaußenpolitik (Energy Foreign Policy). How can the German Energiewende – the country’s energy transition – serve as a model to enhance energy security in other countries, in particular the U.S.?

First, we have to get the message out that beyond growing inequality, consequences of climate change, bad governances and the distribution of small weapons, the struggle over resources leads to failing states. Limited resources are actually among the main causes for today’s wars. So we have to work on all of these issues- energy security being one of them- to fight global crises.

Energieaussenpolitik also means that we have to get across that Germany’s Energiewende has been beneficial for the rest of the world. The German Energiewende made renewable technologies affordable around the globe. We brought down the cost of photovoltaics by 90%, so that people nowadays only pay one tenth of what they paid ten years ago for a kilowatt hour produced by solar. And today, wind is the cheapest way of generating electricity worldwide. So the Energiewende is not only a model. It also has very tangible positive effects on the global energy market. For the first time, renewables now beat new fossil fuels in terms of new installations. This is one of the concrete achievements of the German Energiewende.


The interview was conducted on June 22nd, 2015.