23 February 2011
Efforts to "decarbonise" Europe will only succeed if member states invest tens of billions of euros in creating an integrated energy network, Dieter Helm has claimed.
Currently, a number of national grids operate independently. But the professor of energy policy at Oxford University insisted that governments should be taking advantage of low interest rates to borrow cash. They could then plough investment into capital projects such as new power stations, which could be integrated in a supranational energy network - said Helm.
''There is an enormous opportunity to ensure Europe is more competitive, while at the same time creating jobs," he added. ''We have to link systems together so that if the wind doesn't blow in Britain, the nuclear energy from France will come into play. If we don't do this, Europe will remain fragmented and our competitiveness will continue to be weak.''
Commentators believe many of Europe's power stations are nearing the end of their shelf life, exacerbating the need for new funding in the area of energy infrastructure. The reliance is also a concern for the EU, which has backed the Nabucco pipeline through Turkey as the first step to ending reliance on unstable Russian gas supplies.
Helm indicated that much of the financial flows around Europe were now focused mainly on treasury bonds. ''We need the capital to go into real physical investment,'' he added. In the UK, Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed that the imminent creation of a green investment bank could ''spin off into big infrastructure projects''.