Romain SuJournaliste français correspondant en Pologne


Could the extraction of shale gas constitute an energy independent Poland?

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Essai en anglais lauréat du concours “Shale Gas Poland 2012: The Energy Independence Conference” organisé en mai 2012 par la Fondation Casimir Pułaski sur le thème « L’extraction du gaz de schiste peut-elle conduire à l’indépendance énergétique de la Pologne ? ».

Essay on the topic « Could the extraction of shale gas constitute an energy independent Poland? » awarded for the competition “Shale Gas Poland 2012: The Energy Independence Conference” organized in May 2012 by the Casimir Pułaski Fundation.

Although Poland is far from being the most vulnerable Member State of the European Union (EU) for energy supply – its import dependency rate, all fuels included, reached 31.7% in 2009 against 53.9% on average for the EU-27 –, she is characterized by a high sensitivity to the issue of supply security. History and politics matter here more than numbers: one may indeed have assumed that due to a higher import dependency rate for oil than for natural gas, the first would receive more attention. However, the rigidities of gas trade and, above all, Russia’s position as an irreplaceable key supplier have rather cast the light on the latter, especially after the first ‘gas crisis’ in 2006.

In this context, it is not surprising that the ‘shale gas revolution’ has had a particular echo in Poland after it was discovered in 2010 that the country may sit on enormous resources which would ensure decades, if not centuries, of self-sufficiency for gas consumption. Assessments were so optimistic that beyond energy independence, Poland could even dream of becoming a gas exporter like the United States may soon turn. Shale gas would in such a case not only be instrumental in achieving a strategic goal but would also allow Poland to raise huge revenues in order to accelerate economic modernisation and smooth the short-term, adverse effects of welfare state reforms.

Yet the chances for this scenario to occur are constrained by three ranges of factors. First, energy independence is illusory if it comes at too high a cost for businesses and households to afford it. Energy is a basic input which must always be considered as a means to deliver more directly useful goods and services: if it is excessively expensive, even when available in plenty, it stops to fulfill its main function. One should therefore look closely at the total cost of shale gas extraction and check whether it is competitive in regard with alternatives (I). Second, as mentioned above, natural gas is actually not the energy source for which Poland is most dependent on external supply. Taking in account that gas-exporting countries are often at the same time oil-rich, the political objective of energy independence could hardly be met if extreme vulnerability to oil disruption was to remain intact. It is in consequence necessary to inquire to which extent natural gas, if at all possible, can substitute other sources of energy and at what price (II). Third, Poland does not evolve in a bubble isolated from the rest of the world. EU membership in particular imposes on her certain priorities that she may not share to the same degree, e.g. fight against climate change. Nevertheless, Poland is bound by EU legislation and the growing role of shale gas in her energy mix may purely and simply be not compatible with EU environmental targets, especially CO2 emission caps (III).

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Progressive pricing of energy: a revolution?

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Suggested in a previous article and listed among the proposals of the French Socialist Party, works on progressive energy rates have been initiated last month with a bill introduced by Members of Parliament François Brottes and Bruno Le Roux. Although the complexity of this issue would have rather called for an initiative from the government, François Brottes’s background, who has been a member of the National Observatory of Utility Services and co-writer of the Champsaur report on the organization of the electricity market, ensures to the proposal a high level of credibility and seriousness. At the same time – and the authors do not hide it –, the submitted mechanism is not “simple” and some explanations might therefore be useful to foster debates before discussions start at the Parliament.

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La tarification progressive de l’énergie : « usine à gaz » ou « révolution » ?

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Suggéré dans un précédent article et inscrit au programme du Parti socialiste, le chantier de la tarification progressive de l’énergie a été ouvert la semaine dernière avec la proposition de loi des députés François Brottes et Bruno Le Roux. Quoiqu’il s’agisse d’une question complexe et qu’on aurait pu en conséquence s’attendre à une initiative d’origine gouvernementale plutôt que parlementaire, le parcours de François Brottes, membre de l’Observatoire national du service public de l’électricité et du gaz et co-rédacteur du rapport Champsaur sur l’organisation du marché de l’électricité, confère au texte crédibilité et rigueur. Dans le même temps – et les auteurs le reconnaissent volontiers –, le mécanisme proposé n’est pas « simple » et c’est pourquoi quelques éclaircissements ne devraient pas être de trop pour nourrir le débat à la veille de la discussion du texte.

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Innovation in the electricity industry to jumpstart a clean energy economy?

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Essai en anglais parrainé par l’Union française de l’électricité dans le cadre du concours étudiant Eurelectric 2012 sur le thème « L’innovation dans l’industrie électrique peut-elle initier la transition vers une économie à énergie propre ? quelles actions concrètes sont requises pour que ce scénario se produise ? ». Le contenu du texte n’engage cependant que la seule responsabilité de son auteur et ne constitue en rien une position officielle de l’UFE.

Essay in English sponsored by the French Union of Electricity for the student competition Eurelectric 2012 on the topic « Can innovation in the electricity industry jumpstart a clean energy economy? What concrete actions are necessary to drive this change? ». However, the content of the text engages the sole author’s responsibility and cannot be in any way considered as an official position of the UFE.

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La valeur récréationnelle des forêts britanniques estimée à 550 millions d’euros par an

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Si la nature pouvait facturer les bienfaits dont jouissent les contribuables du Royaume-Uni, ils devraient collectivement acquitter chaque année une somme de 550 millions d’euros pour les activités récréatives et 210 millions pour le paysage offerts par les seules forêts. En ajoutant les services environnementaux qu’elles produisent, le total s’élèverait à 1,36 milliard d’euros par an selon les experts du projet d’Évaluation de l’écosystème national britannique (UK NEA). À titre de comparaison, l’agence de voyages Opodo enregistre un chiffre d’affaires du même ordre. Comment appréhender ce type de résultat ?

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