The Czech energy strategy: liberalization, efficiency, and nuclear power

The Czech government on Friday received a preliminary report by an expert commission on the country’s future energy strategy. The commission, led by the head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Václav Pačes, recommends that the Czech Republic should become more liberal, more efficient and should not reject any sources of energy, including nuclear power.

Mirek Topolánek  (left) and Václav Pačes,  photo: CTK
After year and a half of intense work, the head of the Czech Academy of Sciences Vaclav Paces on Friday handed Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek a report outlining recommendations on the country’s energy strategy for the next 40 to 50 years. Today, the country enjoys a stable position in energy production but Mr Topolánek says this is likely to change in the future.

“From the point of view of both the European and global energy security, the situation is much more complicated than it was in the past. Right now, we have a very advantageous position – we produce the cheapest energy in the region and until 2012 or 2015, we’ll have an energy surplus that we can export. But a number of factors lead us to believe this might change in the medium term. We simply must react to this, and for that we need expert and scientific opinions.”

The first scientific opinion came from the expert commission, set up by the government at the beginning of 2007. The report contains a set of preliminary recommendations the Czech Republic should follow in order to avoid an energy crisis. One of the commission’s members is former industry and trade minister Vladimír Dlouhý who highlighted some of the key issues of the report.

“We believe that the rather rigid governmental regulations should be liberalized. Until now, we have blocked any discussion on the utilization of lignite, about nuclear power and about many other issues. The particle conclusions are that we very strongly recommend to the government that it should not block discussions about any type of energy, including nuclear power, which the commission almost unanimously considers an important part of the future Czech energy strategy. The government should also support energy saving as well as renewable sources of energy.”

Photo: European Commission
Nuclear energy, one of the central topics of the commission’s recommendations, has many adversaries in the Czech Republic, including the Green Party in the Czech governing coalition. The coalition treaty in fact prohibits the building of new blocks in Czech nuclear power plants. But Vojtěch Kotecký, of Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, says the report’s crucial conclusion does not have to do with nuclear power.

“The emphasis the commission puts on energy efficiency is probably the key point. Everybody in this country is talking about nuclear energy, about coal mining in the future and about renewable resources – simply about different sources of energy. But the debate needs to focus on our energy consumption and the low energy efficiency of the Czech economy.”

The conclusions of the expert team will now be discussed in Cabinet which will then wait for the commission’s final report, due by the end of the year. That gives the prime minister several months to convince the Greens, who have threatened to leave the government over the nuclear power issue. If both sides remain firm, it might well be a different government that will make a final decision on the country’s medium-term energy strategy.