Environment groups slam Trade and Industry Ministry's long-term energy policy

31-07-2003

The Trade and Industry Ministry has published its long term energy policy plan up until the year 2030. It has been tailored to gradually meet all EU criteria, but still aims for maximum self sustainability. The ministry has revised an earlier decision to phase out black and brown coal mining and also plans to build three more nuclear reactors. The plan has come as a shock to environment activists who claim that it would be a serious setback for the Czech Republic. Vojtech Kotecky of Friends of the Earth told Daniela Lazarova about his organisation's reservations:

"Firstly it doesn't do much to take the position of the Czech Republic as the worst carbon dioxide polluter in the enlarged European Union and our responsibilities for global climate change. Second, it relies on old outdated technologies such as coal and nuclear power plants and their further development in the Czech Republic in the coming decades. And thirdly, it practically ignores significant improvements in energy efficiency and development of renewable sources of energy which is the present day trend in the developed world."

You said there were alternative sources of energy which you'd prefer to see used - what are they?

"When you look at Western Europe there is a big boom in renewable energy sources like wind or solar energy - and the Czech government should do more to support them. Probably the most important scope for replacement of nuclear and coal sources in the Czech Republic is in energy efficiency. The Czech Republic consumes 1.7 times more energy per GDP produced than the EU countries. We should focus more on so called bridge fossil fuels that will help us to take the step from a coal-dependent economy to a renewable energy economy, predominantly gas which is much less carbon intensive than coal."

So why do you think that the ministry is not in favour of these alternative sources of energy?

"I think that there are three reasons for the "outdated" reasoning at the ministry. First the commercial interests of several big Czech corporations, big coal mining and energy companies that rely on the current technologies. Secondly, it is reasoning carried over from the past - a reliance on and belief in nuclear power and coal sources and thirdly it is this strategy of national independence - of self-sustainability - which doesn't make much sense on the liberalized European market but which is still quite significant in the eyes of the Czech government."

Can you influence this at all? Have you been asked to sit in on negotiations, or have you been consulted in any way at all by the ministry?

"Unfortunately the Ministry of Industry first proposed almost everything in the policy and then started to consult the public, and the time for consultation was extremely short. But still we are trying to influence the policy, and I believe the government debate will be much more intense than it is at the moment, because energy policy will become a major political issue, even within the Czech government. We will be publicly exposing the policy in order to influence it towards a cleaner and more efficient policy."

Are you lobbying in parliament? How strong is your position there - is anybody listening?

"I think we've traditionally had good contacts within the parliament and we were rather successful in lobbying the Czech parliament in the past. So I believe we have got some chance there. But the key discussion over the energy policy will be within the government and within the governing coalition, and we will focus on this of course."

31-07-2003