Special Issue for Energy Policy journal: EU Green Recovery in the post-Covid-19 Period

Call on Energy Policy webpage: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/energy-policy/call-for-papers/call-for...

Abstracts due to guest editors: 30th June, 2021
Decisions sent to the authors: 7th July, 2021
Submission: 15th Nov, 2021 till 15th Feb, 2022

The key policy priority in 2021 for governments around the world has been response to Covid-19. As governments all over the world implemented measures to contain the outbreak of the pandemic (Anderson et al., 2020; Weill et al., 2020), and respond to the ongoing health, social and economic crisis, consequences of these measures impacted economic and social activity (Bonaccorsi et al., 2020), and the energy sector was no exemption (Mastropietro et al., 2020; Sovacool et al., 2020).

The ongoing energy transition was obviously also affected by these measures (Klemeš et al., 2020; Steffen et al., 2020; Vaka et al., 2020). While the short-term effects are noticeable (Hosseini, 2020; Salisu et al., 2020), two views of the pandemic’s effects on energy transition emerged: either as a rupture in the continuation of transformation of energy systems into low (zero)-carbon regime; or as a break-through leap on the energy transition path away from the old, carbon-based system.

While especially the industry and fossil fuel based energy sector have argued that immediate economic recovery needs to be prioritized to decarbonisation, thus supporting business-as-usual model (Kuzemko et al., 2020), others have claimed that the recovery presents a unique opportunity for leapfrogging of ‘greening’ of economies (Barbier, 2020; Elkerbout et al., 2020) and changing ways how people work and move (Kanda and Kivimaa, 2020).

Nonetheless, similarly to previous economic crises, the role of policy choices and the degree of involvement of governments remains crucial. The European Union (EU) is an example of a region where public funding has already made a difference in energy transition. For example, the government subsidies for offshore wind has led to 1000% capacity growth since 2009, making the EU the global leader in wind energy. The discussions of the European Green Deal (EGD), to date the most ambitious project to decarbonise the EU's economy (Pianta and Lucchese, 2020), were influenced by the pandemic response. When the Covid-19 pandemic started at the beginning of 2020, it coincided with the EU's efforts (linked to EGD) to develop more ambitious goals, especially connected to the EU's 2030 energy and climate framework (Oberthür, 2019).

The diversity in government responses and differing views whether there is an insurmountable trade-off between public health responses and their impact on decreasing economic activity leading to recession (Ashraf, 2020) was visible across the EU. According to Steffen et al. “well-established and planned energy policies [were] put into question, particularly those that burden industries that [were] badly affected by the current crisis“ (Steffen et al., 2020). For budgets of many EU member countries harshly impacted by the governments’ efforts to support economies even for the price of skyrocketing national debt, the idea of ambitious (and therefore expensive) decarbonisation goals seems to be of a secondary nature. Indeed, research “highlight[ed] the importance of financial stimulus for renewable energy production“ that „are effective in stimulating the reduction of CO2 emissions“ (Albulescu et al., 2020, p. 33629).

The European Commission developed the Next Generation EU fund (NGEU) that is, together with the new multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027, supposed to support the post-pandemic recovery of EU members. According to July 2020 ‘pandemic’ European Council conclusions, „the MFF, reinforced by NGEU, will be the main European tool“ ensuring that the EU will be set „firmly on the path to a sustainable and resilient recovery, creating jobs and repairing the immediate damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic whilst supporting the Union’s green and digital priorities“ (European Council, 2020, p. 2).

Meanwhile, the discussion on how to achieve the 2050 ultimate goal of carbon neutrality is still ongoing. Member states discussed more ambitious decarbonisation goals for 2030 proposed by the European Commission at the European Council in October 2020 and they agreed on strengthening the goal to 50% emissions reduction. However, this is an EU-wide target that shall be distributed among members based on their abilities (and economic strength). This seems to be one of the main challenges as even the 2020 targets that were binding at national level will probably not be met by the end of this year by all member states.

The special issue aims to study post-pandemic response, and how the related policy choices influence the decarbonization and energy transition efforts in the EU. It formulates a main research question subdivided into several partial related research questions.

● How does the post-pandemic recovery affect the EU’s decarbonization efforts?

○ What influences whether governments prefer (a) to take the ensuing pandemic as an opportunity for leap-frogging their energy transition and decarbonization or (b) to deflect away from the transformation in order to avoid change and maintain their current economies?

○ How do different energy sources across the EU affect the policy choices in the post-pandemic EU?

○ What role does the EU funds and their availability and structure play in the decarbonization within the member states?

The special issue aims to advance the nascent discussion within Energy Policy on the impact of the pandemic on energy policy and energy transition round the world (D’Adamo et al., 2020; Santiago et al., 2021).

The covered topics will include:

1. Political and policy aspects of EU’s post-pandemic green recovery: EU internal cohesion and diversity. COVID-19 has changed the social and economic balances for many governments. The severity of the pandemic, combined with the efficacy of given government’s health response to the virus, and its impact on the economy, influenced the perceptions and support for the form and structure of economic stimulus measures. On the other hand, stimulus decisions influence the progress and path of energy transitions in diverse ways. Balancing industrial competitiveness, geopolitical considerations and energy transition happens differently across the EU, what are the underlying conditions and reasons?

2. The impact of the post-pandemic recovery on EU’s climate and energy policy governance. The adoption of the post-pandemic recovery packages (NGEU and MFF 2021-2027) has been everything but straightforward with difficult discussions being conducted between the Commission and the European Council as well as the European Parliament. These have happened in the middle of adoption of the final versions of the National Energy and Climate Plans and preparation of the Long-Term Strategies, both of which have been based on a new type of governance with the highlighted role of the European Commission. The fate of these strategic documents that are supposed to support the EU's mid- and long-term decarbonisation goals will be likely affected by the type and form of recovery and decarbonisation undertaken.

3. Economic aspects and trade-offs of the EU's post-pandemic green recovery. Economic stimulus and the trade-off between investment into renewable sources or short-term employment boost at the cost of continued investments into fossil sources of energy. What role does the EU funds, their availability and structure play in the decarbonization within the member states? How does COVID-19-caused economic crisis compare to other economic crises in its impact on energy transition? What influences whether governments prefer (a) to take the ensuing pandemic as an opportunity for leap-frogging their energy transition and decarbonization or (b) to deflect away from the transformation in order to avoid change and maintain their current economies? The underlying question is whether and how the sizable COVID-19 economic stimulus packages (especially the NGEU) will be spent on renewable energy sources, or expeditiously on fossil energy sources in order to rapidly boost short-term employment. Given that we observe signs that both directions are being pursued, it is particularly valuable to observe and study the existing regional variations.

4. Behavioural changes, policy nudges and disinformation. Key to reaching the Paris Agreement goals remains a combination of political choices and policies implemented. Acceptance and support for these policies and ensuing technological solutions depends on the combination of behavioural changes and the availability of right technological solutions and their implementation at scale. While right policies can stimulate the necessary behavioural change and technology, in turn the behavioural change and technology influence possible policy choices. The national and regional responses to COVID-19 influenced perceptions of global policy problems, trust towards institutions and how global problems are perceived. How does disinformation related to the environment and health impact policy choices and their implementation around Europe?

5. Underlying domestic conditions: Diversity of domestic economic and industrial restructuring. The length and severity of the COVID-19 caused recession, and its selective sectoral impact, will impact not only the structure of the economies around the EU and within the EU Member States. The interesting question remains whether the government will aim to protect the status quo, or use the unprecedented structural destruction, and transform it into an example of leapfrogging Schumpeterian creative-destruction.

6. Underlying domestic conditions: Infrastructure and sunk-costs: Technological solutions and developments in energy mix. How do different energy sources across the EU affect the policy choices in the post-pandemic EU? Structure of responses to an economic crisis will influence the energy industry’s trajectory and energy mix, not only because energy infrastructure is intertwined with industrial policy and country’s economic performance, but also because it may reflect political and policy influence of national energy giants. Particularly interesting will be to cover how the “old” energy (coal, natural gas, nuclear) fared against the “new” energy (solar, renewables) and how those specifically transition energy fuels and technologies fared (hydrogen, ccs).

7. Underlying domestic conditions: Companies and private sector response. How companies will have to respond (from the energy sector, and energy intensive industrial sectors) low-carbon energy technologies, although their adoption of wind, solar, battery, and electric vehicle (EV) technologies was rapidly accelerating. Still, any decline in oil and natural gas consumption in Europe and North America seemed likely to be offset by growth in Asia, where increasing oil and gas imports would fuel economic growth for the coming decades.

8. International dimension: How will post-pandemic recovery influence the EU's relations to its energy suppliers? The EU imports a lot of fossil fuels from third countries which makes her import dependent. Although the goal of several major initiatives (Energy Union, but also EGH) has been to decrease this dependency, the post-pandemic recovery with its focus on (domestic) renewables could restructure these relations. How will the external partners react to decreased demand for imported oil or natural gas? This issue concerns not only the Russian Federation, but also the US that has recently seen the EU as a perfect destination for its liquified natural gas. Moreover, the relations with third countries will also concern nuclear energy which place is everything but clear in the EU's energy transition in general and the post-covid recovery in particular. Will new similar relations of strategic inter-dependence emerge with countries providing imports of strategic minerals and resources required for green and renewable energy?


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Matúš Mišík  and Andrej Nosko