Conclusions and Strategic Perspectives

The exchange of national experiences with energy transition to decarbonised energy systems was at the core of the 2nd KAS-EUCERS Energy Policy Dialogue held in Auckland and Wellington / New Zealand as well as Sydney / Australia in October 2019. 

The roundtables, seminars and meetings between German energy policy experts and their New Zealand and Australian counterparts have highlighted the varying starting points and conditions for our respective countries’ national energy policies, be it in regards to national energy mixes, climate and other geographical conditions, the various industrial and economic factors or historical influences, regional energy cooperation frameworks as well as import and other external dependencies. As a result of these differences, there is neither a “silver bullet”-solution nor just one pathway or one-size-fits-all concept for every country, let alone for a global energy transition. Taking this into account, an exchange of national experiences, technologies and best practices, including an exchange on costs and failures, is even more important. Germany has taken a leadership role with its ‘Energiewende’ (energy transition), and while some of its strategies have proved to be successful, others have failed. Other countries may therefore learn from the German experience, both in positive and negative terms, and thus avoid making the same mistakes. Germany, on the other hand, despite being a global leader in regards to energy transition, may also learn from other countries and revise its energy transitions strategies, for example, by choosing options that have proved to be less costly and more effective.  Moreover, all countries must cope with the technological challenge of finding affordable electricity storage solutions alongside the electrification of entire energy systems. They must also guarantee baseload stability as a pre-condition for energy supply security.

According to Todd Muller, Member of the New Zealand Parliament (NZ MP) and Spokesperson for Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety and Forestry of the National Party of New Zealand, the major challenge for his country is an even more ambitious energy climate protection policy, which must be balanced with economic costs and ensure competitiveness towards other countries and trading partners. As New Zealand’s economy is largely based on agriculture and enjoys a global leadership position in this field, he is concerned whether such a policy would undermine New Zealand’s status and future economic development. Unlike other countries, New Zealand may benefit from its abundance of water, which it could even use to a greater extent for its energy transition. In his view, New Zealand must at least double its renewable energy generation in the decades ahead.

His fellow NZ MP, Jonathan Young, Spokesperson for Energy and Resources of the National Party of New Zealand, calls for a balanced transition pathway away from fossil fuels dependency. He criticises the Labour government’s ban of any new petroleum exploration outside Taranaki, the country’s main regional hydrocarbon centre. The perceived populistic governmental decision was announced just before the Prime Minister departed to Europe without including other ministries’ analyses on environmental and economic impacts. As a result, he says, New Zealand has become even more dependent on coal consumption.

As New Zealand’s ‘Business Energy Council’ highlights in its contribution, New Zealand and Germany have recently enhanced their bilateral energy and climate cooperation based on common interests and values, which facilitates their overall bilateral economic partnership. Germany has expressed its interest in collaborating with New Zealand on research and technological development as well as future imports of ‘green hydrogen’, an interest it has also expressed towards Australia. As a member of the World Energy Council (WEC), New Zealand sees the opportunity to cooperate in regards to green hydrogen with Germany as well as other countries. According to the Council, New Zealand hopes to find adequate solutions and ideas for its own energy futures through international engagement. 

The German Australian ‘Energy Transition Hub’ regards ‘green hydrogen’ as a crucial energy option, great opportunity for international cooperation with countries such as Germany and future export option for Australia. In comparison with other countries, Australia would benefit from perfect sun and wind power conditions to generate hydrogen from renewable energies. Even without additional energy policies, Australia’s carbon emissions in the electricity sector may fall by 40-48% by 2030 (relative to the 2005 level). The Hub also predicts one of the lowest hydrogen production costs worldwide, and expects that the electrolyser costs will significantly decrease towards A$800/kW by 2050. In this light, it is hardly surprising that the Australian government has recently issued a national green hydrogen strategy and promotes this energy option also in international frameworks.

The expert trio Jonathan Jutsen (CEO of the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity), Carsten Mueller (Member of the German Parliament) and Christoph von Spesshardt (Director of Public Affairs & Strategy, Knauf Insulation) focus in their contribution on energy productivity and energy efficiency. They propose an ‘Enliten’-concept as a model of an integrated strategy to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for Australia’s energy transition based on large-scale renewable generation and green hydrogen for the electrification of the transport sector. They also favour a national energy productivity innovation programme to facilitate the development and application of new technology options and technology transfers.

The Australian energy expert Bahador Tari of ‘Energetics’ (an Australian company providing consulting services in regards to climate change and clean energy) also focusses in his comparative analysis on energy efficiency and the various approaches and outcomes of Australia’s as well as Germany’s energy policies. He highlights that many countries have not really improved their energy efficiency despite the huge potential repeatedly identified by the IEA, the WEC and other international energy organisations. In this regard, Germany as the worldwide leader in energy efficiency together with Japan, is an exception. Unlike Germany, Australia has missed many energy efficiency opportunities and, therefore, should draw on the positive experiences Germany and other countries have already made.

The German MP Joachim Pfeiffer highlights in his contribution various experiences, successes and failures of the German Energiewende in the context of the global energy transition and climate change challenges. He stresses the overall importance of the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as the major emission reduction instrument for the EU’s integrated energy and climate policies. He supports the EU ETS as one of the market-based and technology-open approaches of Germany’s rather state-centred Energiewende policy. In his view, the German overpromotion of subsidies enabled the country to increase renewables to almost 40% of its national electricity production, but not to achieve its climate target of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 (towards the 1990 level). He also draws attention to New Zealand’s ETS system and one of its renewable energy sources, namely the historical use of geothermal electricity generation. Despite varying determining factors of the European and New Zealand’s ETS, he hopes for their harmonisation, the creation of a global carbon market and thus the establishment of a worldwide level playing field. 

Frank Umbach’s contribution widens the understanding of traditional energy security concepts by revising them and integrating also raw material supply security. As renewables expand worldwide, global dependence on politically unstable countries producing and exporting oil and gas will reduce over time alongside geopolitical risks and vulnerabilities. A closer look suggests, however, that a worldwide decarbonised green energy system will be much more raw material intensive. As the World Bank predicted in 2017: The faster the energy transition to a non-fossil fuel energy system takes place, the higher would be the global demand for critical raw materials (CRMs). Given the overall concentration of CRMs (i.e. rare earths, lithium, cobalt and others) in, and production and refining by, a small number of countries and regions (compared to oil and gas production) and an average period of time for opening new mines (from planning up to production) of 7-10 years, there are growing global supply risks and vulnerabilities due to new geopolitical dependencies that are still often overlooked. This development might further increase as a result of the electrification of the global transport sector and the battery demand of electric vehicles as well as rapidly applied digitalisation technologies, all of which require more CRMs than ever. In this context, the author favours a closer cooperation between Australia and the EU as well as Germany. Australia could offer a stable and diversified supply of CRMs for the EU and Germany, while Australia would benefit from European investments, technology transfers and application of European best practices for greening Australia’s raw material and energy sectors.

Whereas global climate challenges and policies (Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement of December 2015) played a major role in all our discussions, Friedbert Pflueger’s contribution pays special attention to the often overlooked climate security challenges of food insecurity, water shortages, rising temperatures, extreme and unpredictable weather patterns as well as their geopolitical implications. He focuses in his contribution on two case studies, namely the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The rising geopolitical interest and competition between great powers such as Russia, the US and China are not only the result of global warming but also of the anticipated oil and gas reserves in both regions which will become increasingly exploitable thanks to the ice melting and new technologies. 

Tammy Tabe (Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific) focusses in her analysis on the migration and displacement challenges caused by climate change and natural hazards. She highlights various UN agreements and other international initiatives adopted in this regard, and analyses Fiji as a case study on these interrelated issues. While Fiji has taken numerous decisions to support the relocation of vulnerable communities (such as the ‘Climate Relocation Trust Fund’), she also cautions that Fiji cannot always serve as a model for other Pacific islands. Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands have taken different steps with a view to different conditions and priorities. These countries see in the relocation of communities only a final option after having considered and exhausted all other options. They have focussed more on internal adaptive capacity to combat climate change. Or they have rejected relocation as it is detrimental to, or opposed by, communities. While it is important to understand the ramifications and scale of the specific relocation in each case, it is equally necessary to understand the various impacts of a more easily managed internal relocation compared with an external relocation.

In sum, the various roundtables, seminars and meetings have shown again (as in 2018) the mutual benefits of sharing various experiences, insights and lessons, which all three countries have learnt through their energy transition and decarbonisation policies for their energy sectors and economies during the last years. More ambitious and successful global climate protection policies are only realistic when their governments are able to define and implement effective strategies. On this pathway, all three countries need to balance their policies and strategies by preserving a future economic development and competitiveness, guaranteeing security of supply as well as finding affordable solutions in order to win and not to lose public acceptance by its citizens.

Dr Frank Umbach

Research Director of the European Centre for Climate, Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS), King‘s College


Dr Frank Umbach is the Research Director of the European Centre for Climate, Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS), King‘s College in London. He is also an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at the Nanyan Technological University (NTU) in Singapore; a Visiting Professor on “EU Energy (External) Policies and Governance” at the College of Europe in Natolin/Warsaw (Poland) and an Executive Advisor of Proventis Partners GmbH, Munich (a M&A company). He also works as an international consultant for governments, international organisations (i.e. NATO), energy, consulting and investment companies (i.e. Gerson Lehrman Group/(GLG) on international energy security, policies and markets, geopolitical risks, cyber security and critical (energy) infrastructure protection/CEIP, as well as (maritime) security policies in Asia-Pacific.

Moreover, he is the author of more than 500 publications in more than 30 countries worldwide. He has published regularly for the Geopolitical Intelligence Service (GIS), Liechtenstein since 2011, and is the author of the study “Energy Security in a Digitalized World and its Geostrategic Implications”, Study of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS)/Regional Project: Energy Security and Climate Change Asia-Pacific (RECAP), Hongkong, September 2018, 171 pp. (