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Assess the role of different players in determining Western Europes future energy security (15 marks)

Energy security can be defined as the extent to which an affordable, reliable and stable energy supply can be achieved. Western Europe has been described as energy insecure as the countries have become increasingly reliant on energy imports. Many different players are involved in deciding future energy security. The first of the different players is the individual. The public perception is very important to the government and the energy companies, as they are the consumers. The public perception is vital in choosing which energy path to go down. But the public perception can change for example in 1950s and 1960s, nuclear power was seen as positive. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the public turned against nuclear power. It was considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, the death toll is said to be fewer than 50 but the exposure to radiation in the long term could cause an estimated 4,000 deaths. But more recently attitudes have started to slightly shift towards a nuclear power future, as Western Europe becomes more reliant on imports and this loss of control over future energy supplies worries many people with rising costs. Individuals are very cost sensitive and this has caused renewable energies to not be as successful as solar panels have a high start up cost. Also the location of energy plants can cause problems, as the attitude of not in my backyard is often the case. As people agree to developments in society but think they should be further away from them like wind turbines or nuclear power stations. Another case where the future for energy security is concerned is Balcombe in Sussex the site for a shale gas fracking project. One of the local residents spoke to the BBC about her worries of earth tremors, pollution and possible earth tremors. In Germany many turned their back on using E10, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, even though it cost 10 cents less per litre than conventional gas sometimes people believe it will harm the engine. TNCs, which are trans-national corporations, also have a big role in securing energy security. As the deregulation and denationalisation of the energy industry has left TNCs managing much of the energy business. Taking the French TNC EDF as an example, who own a large number of British nuclear power plants. They are in the business for searching for and opening new energy reserves. They are suppliers and resellers of energy, and since they are largely responsible for the wholesale of energy resources to world markets they have significant mechanisms for controlling supply. This in turn lets them control energy prices. They are also involved in researching and developing new energy technologies like ExxonMobil who are exploring for shale gas in Germany. Another example is Ensus, who own Britains largest bioethanol chemical plant, a 300 million one located at Teeside. For a stable future in bioethanol it is important to have large refineries they re-opened after a 15monthshutdown. OPEC is a very powerful player in the energy supply business; together the member countries own nearly 78% of the worlds reserves. It sets oil production quotas for member countries in response to economic growth rates and demand and supply conditions.

The NGO, which stands for non-governmental organisation, DESERTEC are an example of a project that is planning an alternative energy scheme. They are developing CSP, which is concentrated solar power, which uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight. They are aiming to help power North Africa and Europe. They aim to increase energy needs and reduce carbon emissions through renewable CSP and long transmission lines are used from the desert regions of the Middle East. Within six hours deserts receive more energy than humans consume in a year. They aim to provide Europe with 15% of its power by 2050. The national government also has a big role in determining energy security. In the UK the chancellor George Osborne revealed in his autumn report, tax breaks for the fracking industry and provision for new offices to look for shale gas. The national government in the UK no longer owns or controls the energy industry it just regulates it. They provide strategic direction and provide schemes that provide funding to households on certain benefits to improve their heating and energy efficiency through the energy saving trust. The Renewable Heat Premium payment for example is a grant to help you to install renewable technology in your home that includes a biomass boiler, solar thermal hot water and air to water heat pump. Also by 2019 every home in the UK will include a smart meter which help you to keep track of the energy you use in your home to carefully manage consumption. The government also imposes green taxes where road tax is increased more for polluting vehicles. In France 33 billion was collected from environmental taxes, their socialist government wants to cut pollution and conserve resources. Every country in Western Europe has a green tax and the Netherlands has the highest reported environmental tax revenue in the world at 4.5% of the countries GNP. So conserving resources by imposing tax is helping countries reduce consumption and raise more for renewable projects. Another important player is the local council, who play a vital role in improving energy efficiency of residential homes in their area. Taking Woking in London as an example has reduced CO2 emissions by 82% and energy consumption by 52%. They did this through decentralizing energy generation and developing local energy generators and encouraging energy efficiency measures. Woking has developed a network of 60 local sustainable generators, which include the use of solar power and combined heat and power. They also introduced a low carbon homes programme, which encouraged its residents to minimize their water consumption and CO2 emissions. Environmentalists also have a big impact on energy security; the importance of environmentalists is that they raise awareness and campaign for certain energies and projects, which they believe to be sustainable. For example EFN, environmentalists for nuclear energy, which is an NGO. It currently has 10,000 members and supporters and is pro- nuclear energy. EFN says that if well-managed nuclear energy is a very clean energy, which doesnt pollute our environment. Other environmentalists are against the use of shale gas, as it pollutes water through the chemicals in its process as well as leakage of methane. Greenpeace is particularly for concentrated solar power and says it is the technology that will save humanity. In conclusion there are many major players that will influence the future of Western Europes energy security.