You never actually think about it, until it happens. The first thing you notice – the lights go out. Then your Wi-Fi, dishwasher. You can’t even make a coffee; your cool coffee machine is useless as well. Luckily you have your mobile and computer. They will last for another few hours. But what happens, when it takes longer? Blackout is a real nightmare of our spoiled postmodern society. In my generation, perhaps only former boy and girl scouts have an idea, how it feels like to live without electricity for a couple of weeks. But no one wants to experience such an adventure on a busy working day. That’s why governments have to develop strategies to provide reliable and sustainable supply of electric energy and avoid horror case scenarios.
Current participants of the Czech-German Young Professionals Program (CGYPP) and a few present Alumni could learn more about the situation in the Czech Republic and Germany (especially Bavaria) at the opening session of this year’s first workshop. It felt not so difficult to discuss such a serious topic in the fancy new Representation of the Free State Bavaria to the Czech Republic on a sunny spring afternoon. The speeches were held by Ulrike Wolf from Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Václav Bartuška from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Michael Kehr from the company Net4Gas. What was the result?
Energy is a big issue between our two neighbouring countries, an important part of the developing strategic dialogue between Berlin and Prague. There are some branches, where we cooperate perfectly. Some problems, we have solved. We agreed that unwanted flows of German wind-generated power to the Czech Republic, which brought a risk of potential overloads and blackouts, will be stopped by transformers on the borders. Our cooperation in the field of oil and gas is a success story.
Just the Czech affection for nuclear power is not really compatible with German Energiewende, the complete abandonment of nuclear energy and transition to an energy portfolio dominated by renewable resources. But it’s obviously not a big deal. All European countries are free to decide about their own energy mix. What struck me most were the experiences, the speakers have made with general public. Opinion pools say, about 2/3 of Germans support the idea of Energiewende. But only to a certain degree. To the point, when new, indispensable infrastructure should be build in their direct neighbourhood. If you are interested, you can read much more about it e.g. here.
The situation in the Czech Republic is very similar. Václav Bartuška says, the only shift, citizens went through in last years was from NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) to BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). The public support for any big energy project approaches zero. New power plants are not being built, despite the contemporary ones are quickly ageing. Politician’s main interest is to be reelected. Any price of a new facility is too high for the public. Particularly today, when the price of electricity is so low, that we can’t even talk about profitability of new power plants. This problem is passed on future generations, like the issue of a long-term nuclear waste deposit and many other problems, not only in the field of energy.
Lot of hope is put into technological progress and new inventions, which are yet to come. Frankly, this is not a very sustainable approach. What can we do? We can at least try to keep us informed, think about our personal consumption and a broader context of energy production and distribution. We can stop taking our morning coffee for granted. Because it is not nearly so self-evident, that we get it, as it ever might have seem.