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Growing energy gap in Europe

Published: 14 June 2017

There is a growing gap in Europe between the countries that have invested in renewable energies and those who have not done so. This finding is presented in a new doctoral thesis on technological development in the European environmental energy sector and the knowledge spillover between the countries.

– Knownledge spillovers in the environmental energy sector is one of the key elements to developing and increasing production of renewable energy at a lower cost. But in order for a country to benefit from the new technology, self-research and development is necessary, says Jonas Grafström, recent PhD graduate from Luleå University of Technology.

Successful countries moving away

Jonas Grafström investigated the determinants of technological change in the European environmental energy sector and knowledge spillovers and convergence across countries. He says that spillovers is a prerequisite for reducing environmental impact, but also creates incentives for governments not to make investments themselves, but instead rely on other countries' successes.

– There is a gap between these countries and it is also widening over time. Successful countries that have invested in new technologies are moving away from those who are following. That would not be a problem, if it wasn't so that technical knowledge could be too low in the countries that is falling behind to implement new technology.

Jonas Grafström has investigated the national and international spillovers between the eight major wind power countries in Europe – Denmark, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain. He has also looked at the spillover effects in Western Europe throughout the renewable field. Germany and Denmark are two countries that stands out and are at the forefront of renewable energy expansion. Their early and extensive research efforts have led to patents on key technical solutions.

– Danish and German companies are well equipped to export to other countries if the demand emerges. Sweden is not behind in a general European perspective, but is so when compared to Denmark and Germany. We can definitely do more, especially at the corporate level. The support available for companies that want to build test facilities is lacking and the plants have a high cost. It impedes the development of new technology and new companies, says Jonas Grafström.

Research efforts crucial

The fact that more governments are investing in research will be important for the future of European environmental policy, says Jonas Grafström. If some countries go ahead and take investment costs to develop new technology, it's likely to be a backslash for the voters. In his role as a researcher at the independent research institute, Ratio, he will now investigate the consequences of the growing gap between European countries and how to tackle it.

– If we get great technological solutions, we will be able to maintain the standard of living that we have, though with lower environmental impact. But the voters will not appreciate that they get a heavier load and pay while others hook up later. It could be a threat to environmental policy, he says.

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