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School of Law

Professor Rafael Leal-Arcas discusses the challenges and opportunties for EU energy policy

A new book from QMUL's Professor Rafael Leal-Arcas presents, for the first time, a comprehensive overview of the most important research and latest trends in EU energy law and policy. In this article, he talks about some of the major challenges facing the EU in terms of energy policy. 

Pylons at sunset

Tell us about the most important aspects of your new book on energy law?

The Research handbook covers the full breadth of topics and developments in the EU’s law and policies regarding energy, fully acknowledging the multi-faceted and multi-layered nature of this vast arena. It is divided into four broad thematic areas of EU energy law and policy: 1) institutional aspects; 2) external aspects; 3) economic, social and legal aspects; and 4) environmental and technological aspects. Expert contributors also present a future research agenda in the four main thematic areas described above and identify emerging themes with substantial potential for further research in years to come.

Why is this book important in terms of current debates?

It presents, for the first time, a comprehensive overview of the most important research and latest trends in EU Energy Law and Policy. It offers high-quality original contributions that provide state-of-the-art research in this rapidly evolving area, situated in the broader context of international economic law and governance.

What are the major policy challenges facing the EU in the coming five years?

Simply, I would say providing energy to its citizens that is sustainable, affordable and secure.

To what extent have EU-Russia relations improved or worsened in the last few years?

The EU and Russia face bilateral tension, in which a crucial issue is energy security. An example of this lies in the gas disputes between Russia and neighbouring countries such as Ukraine through which supplies to all 28 Member States must be brought. On 22 March 2013, in Moscow, the coordinators of the EU–Russia Energy Dialogue, the then-EU Energy Commissioner G.H. Oettinger and A.V. Novak, then-Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, signed the ‘Roadmap EU-Russia Energy Cooperation until 2050’, which states: ‘Over the past half century, Russia has been a vital supplier of energy to the EU. But if Russia is important to the EU, the EU as a neighbour with half a billion energy consumers in a unified internal market, is just as important to Russia.’

The EU should actively seek to diversify its sources of energy supply by trading with alternative markets such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq or Nigeria, for instance. It would be in the EU’s interest to foster energy market liberalisation for the rest of the world, aiming for more energy commodities to reach the market, along with other consumers, to meet needs not met by preferential deals.

Is the reporting on solar power (as a growing force) accurate in your view? To what extent have European countries embraced solar power?

Solar energy could become cheaper thanks to new materials and assembly technologies. The potential of solar energy is phenomenal: solar energy today is only 0.3 per cent of global energy. Yet, one hour of sun can generate energy for the whole Earth for an entire year; or put it differently, in 14.5 seconds, the sun emits enough energy to power the Earth for an entire day. 

We could power the entire world if we covered less than 3 per cent of the Sahara Desert with solar panels. The whole of Europe could be powered if we covered 0.3 per cent of the Sahara Desert with solar collectors. Countries will need better ways of storing and trading renewable energy via large mega-grids. Geoengineering could be further developed to mitigate climate change. 

The greatest result of investing in low-carbon technologies will be the prospect of energy independence. So there is hope and great business opportunities. European (and non-European) countries could do much more to enhance solar energy.



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