The green transition is a huge undertaking and a pan-European body is needed to coordinate it
How much does industry pay for electricity? Where did Europe's natural gas come from last year and how many power plants does it have? Which transport lines are most congested? How quickly are wind and solar added to the system? It is not easy to give a clear answer to these questions, partly because some public statistics remain inaccessible or difficult to use, and partly because simpler and more up-to-date data come at a cost. This applies in particular to energy and emissions prices, but also to data on demand from certain consumer groups or regional production.
The required energy transformation for zero emissions by 2050 will be enormous in the EU. 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 be moved to where the wind turbines are, wind turbines to where the consumption is, or should the electricity be transported? How should the cost be distributed among the various consumers? These are not only technical and economic issues, above all they are political. Therefore, the availability of reliable and comprehensive data is a key foundation for important policy choices. The problem is not so much that public authorities, companies, research institutes and associations do not provide data, but that they produce a fragmented patchwork of only partially documented data, which they post in their own form and on their own platforms. This creates unreasonably high barriers to entry for a meaningful debate on energy policy measures, so many stakeholders cannot participate. Much laudable initiatives from academia, non-governmental organizations and associations have lowered barriers to data access in some areas, sometimes with very impressive online tools. Data and publicly available information are needed to assess the impact of policies and existing frameworks, to plan infrastructure, evaluate national and regional plans and set priorities.
Since so much is at stake for so many in the energy transition, a public body, as independent as possible, should take responsibility for the information and knowledge infrastructure. A new European Energy Agency.
The article is a collaborative work of university and Bruegel Institute researchers.