First glance

Green transition: create a European energy agency

As energy and climate economists, we propose that a European energy agency be set up to guide the continent’s transition to net-zero carbon by 2050.

Publishing date
26 April 2023
Green field with eolic turbines

How much does industry pay for electricity? Where did Europe’s gas come from last year? How many power plants does Europe have? Which transmission lines are most congested? How fast are wind and solar energy being added into the system?

It’s not easy to find a clear answer to these questions, partly because some public statistics remain inaccessible or hard to work with, and partly because simpler and more up-to-date data is only available commercially. This is especially true for energy and emissions prices, but is also the case for data on demand from some consumer groups or regional generation.

No problem, one might think. This has always been the case and public data availability has actually improved in recent years. But it is a problem.

The energy transformation required to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 will massive. Transport, heat and industry must be converted very quickly to emission-free energy sources. Identifying the right mix of solutions is controversial. Should electricity consumers move to where the wind turbines are, wind turbines to where the consumption is, or should the electricity be transported? How should the costs be shared among the various consumers? These are not only technical-economic questions; above all they are political. The availability of reliable and consistent data thus represents a basic foundation to underpin major political choices on energy. Without good data, Europe’s energy transition will be harder to achieve.

The problem is not so much that public authorities, companies, research institutions and associations do not provide data, but that they produce an inconsistent patchwork of only partly documented data points, which they upload in their own formats and onto their own platforms. This creates unnecessarily high barriers to entry for a meaningful discussion of energy policy measures, meaning many stakeholders cannot participate.

Very commendable initiatives from academia, non-governmental organisations and associations have lowered the barriers to data access in some areas, sometimes with very impressive online tools. But this must only be an intermediate step towards a public knowledge infrastructure that provides consistent and relevant energy data. Good data and publicly-available information are needed to assess the impact of planned policies, to evaluate current frameworks, to plan infrastructure, to assess national and regional plans and to identify priorities. Without good public data, stakeholders find it much easier to lobby for suboptimal approaches.

Since so much is at stake for so many in the energy transition, a public body that is as independent as possible should be given responsibility for the knowledge infrastructure. And since the question of what data is collected and how it is processed and presented is already political, a structure is needed that gives everyone the opportunity to suggest improvements. Without this, there will be neither the basis for the necessary public planning nor for the private investments that serve the system.

A new European Energy Agency could perform this task. It could mirror the European Environment Agency and its mandate to deliver knowledge and data to support Europe's environment and climate goals. Alternatively, this task could be performed by the creation of a dedicated organisation within Eurostat. One way or another, such a body is required urgently to inform and guide Europe’s transition to net-zero in a transparent, consistent and authoritative way.

This first glance is based on a corresponding piece published in Nature, which you can read here

This first glance is also published in Corriere della SeraLe MondePúblico and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

About the authors

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy at the Catholic University of Milan and at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the European Union climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, also in leading journals such as Nature and Science, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

    His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media such as the BBC, CNN, Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Die Zeit, Corriere della Sera, and others.

    Simone also is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). He holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

  • Georg Zachmann

    Georg Zachmann is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, where he has worked since 2009 on energy and climate policy. His work focuses on regional and distributional impacts of decarbonisation, the analysis and design of carbon, gas and electricity markets, and EU energy and climate policies. Previously, he worked at the German Ministry of Finance, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, the energy think tank LARSEN in Paris, and the policy consultancy Berlin Economics.

  • Anna Creti

  • Ottmar Edenhofer

    Ottmar Edenhofer is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Professor for the Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University Berlin as well as founding director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). Furthermore, he is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and of the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech. From 2008 to 2015 he served as Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, shaping the Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change Mitigation substantially.

     

  • Natalia Fabra

    Natalia Fabra is Professor of Economics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. She is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research and an Associate Member of the Toulouse School of Economics. She belongs to the Economic Advisory Group on Competition Policy (EAGCP) of the European Commission. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2001 at the European University Institute (Florence) under the supervision of Prof. Massimo Motta.

    Natalia works in the field of Industrial Organization, with an emphasis on Energy and Environmental Economics and Regulation and Competition Policy. She has published her research papers in leading journals such as the American Economic Review, Management Science, The Rand Journal of Economics, The Economic Journal, Energy Economics, The Journal of Industrial Economics, and the International Journal of Industrial Organization, among others. Natalia is an Associate Editor at the Economic Journal, the Journal of the European Economic Association, and the International Journal of Industrial Organization, and belongs to the Scientific Council of Bruegel.

  • Jean-Michel Glachant

    Jean-Michel Glachant is the Director of the Florence School of Regulation and the Holder of the Loyola de Palacio Chair.

    Glachant took his Ph.D. in economics at La Sorbonne in France. He worked in the industry and private sector before becoming professor at La Sorbonne.

    He has been advisor of DG TREN, DG COMP and DG RESEARCH at the European Commission and of the French Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE). He has been coordinator and scientific advisor of several European research projects. Jean-Michel Glachant has been editor-in-chief of EEEP: Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy (an IAEE journal) and he is a current member of the Council of the International Association for Energy Economics.

  • Pedro Linares

  • Andreas Löschel

  • Joanna Maćkowiak-Pandera

  • László Szabó

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