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FU-BEST 30: Energizing Europe: The EU energy and climate crises

InstructorDr. Thomas W. O'Donnell
Credit Points6 ECTS


Today, the EU is seen as a world leader in alternative energy efforts, notably Germany’s Energiewende to replace coal and nuclear with wind and solar for electricity. The EU is also unifying member-state gas, electrical and transport systems, liberalizing energy markets, and requiring more renewables. This is aided by the new European Energy Union (EEU), formed in response to the Ukraine crisis and Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. In Energizing Europe, we critically examine the difficulties facing these energy transitions.

We begin by looking at Europe’s previous energy transitions, each the product of larger, industrial revolutions. Informed by this history, we then critically examine Germany’s Energiewende (EW) and EU energy policy. This includes the EW’s: (i) roots in German society, (ii) goals, (iii) technical, and economic challenges of building and paying for its massive wind and solar, and to reengineer the grid. In addition: (iv) German and the EU’s continued dependence on oil to fuel cars and trucks; (iii) German and EU natural gas policies – including their heavy dependence on Russian imports; (iv) Germany's continued high use of coal; (v) and its rejection of nuclear power, albeit a zero-carbon energy source.

Throughout, we compare the German and EU energy reality to US policy. The course should be of interest to students of either social or natural sciences.