Publications of LaBelle, M

Escaping the Valley of Death? Comparing shale gas technology prospects to nuclear and solar in Europe

Shale gas developments in the USA have led to a hype about the energy security prospects for other world regions, eager to replicate the American success story. In Europe, shale gas developments have remained in their infancy. As we argue in this piece, it is likely that this situation will continue and the shale gas ‘revolution’ is one that remains restricted. We compare shale gas technology to solar and nuclear, each at the time coined a game changer for energy security, and hyped as key to a sustainable energy future. We argue that shale gas perceived as an unproven and risky technology, fails to surpass essential policy, industry and social barriers required for a new energy technology innovation to succeed.

Governance of Unconventional Gas in Bulgaria: From Exploration to Bust

The story of Bulgarian shale gas exemplifies the difficulty for the unconventional gas industry to take a hold in Europe. This paper investigates the reasons for Bulgaria banning shale gas by disentangling the various domestic causes at work. We find the failure of shale gas exploration to progress in Bulgaria is attributed to two main drivers: material factors such as the government's interest in staying in power; and process related drivers, notably a highly centralized politically controlled decision making structure and a flawed policy process.

Constructing post-carbon institutions: Assessing EU carbon reduction efforts through an institutional risk governance approach

This paper examines three different governance approaches the European Union (EU) and Member States (MS) are relying on to reach a low carbon economy by 2050. Current governance literature explains the operational methods of the EU's new governance approach to reduce carbon emissions. However, the literature neglects to account for the perceived risks that inhibit the roll-out of new low carbon technology. This article, through a novel approach, uses a grounded theoretical framework to reframe traditional risk literature and provides a connection to governance literature in order to assess the ability of EU governance mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions. The empirical research is based on responses from European energy stakeholders who participated in a Delphi method discussion and in semi-structured interviews; these identified three essential requirements for carbon emissions to be reduced to near zero by 2050: (1) an integrated European energy network, (2) carbon pricing and (3) demand reduction. These features correspond to institutionalized responses by the EU and MS: the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER); European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and energy efficiency directives and policies integrated into existing MS institutions. The theoretical and empirical findings suggest that governance by facilitation (energy efficiency) fails to induce significant investment and new policy approaches and cannot be relied on to achieve requisite reductions in demand. Governance by negotiation (ACER) and governance by hierarchy (EU ETS) do reduce risks and may encourage the necessary technological uptake. The term ‘risk governance’ is used to explain the important role governance plays in reducing risks and advancing new technology and thereby lowering carbon emissions in the energy sector.

Synergies between energy efficiency and energy access policies and strategies

Policies to improve energy access and energy efficiency are often discussed, designed and assessed in isolation from each other. In this paper, we highlight possible synergies in these two domains of policy making by looking specifically at some key household end uses that are the first to be met once improved access has been provided. By building in efficiency considerations at the very inception of activities aimed at improving access, effective energy supply available is potentially increased, the level of energy services that can be provided by the existing capacity and infrastructure or from existing budgets available is also enhanced, and the potential for reducing the cost for those populations for which cost has the highest consideration is also improved. In particular, we recommend two areas where policy maybe leveraged to benefit both access and efficiency objectives, first in the setting of standards, labels and codes and second coupling energy subsidies for access with rebates or grants for more efficient end use devices. © 2012 London School of Economics and Political Science and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Expanding opportunities: Strategic buying of utilities in new EU member states

During the 1990s, limited investment opportunities in Western Europe, the opening of the energy markets in Eastern Europe, and the future expansion of the European Union (EU) prompted an expansionist strategy by energy companies from the original EU member states. In this paper, the acquisition and divestiture activities and strategies of utilities from France and Germany are analyzed in the context of the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements. Through quantitative and qualitative data analysis, including the development of two case studies, the strategy for expansion and evolution in new member states is examined. The results demonstrate a concerted effort to establish economies of scale through ownership of distribution companies. A change in strategy occurs as these privatization opportunities disappear. Generation and trading activity become the growth area for these companies as electricity supply becomes another factor that can contribute to the economies of scale. Recent EU-supported efforts towards regionalization of electricity markets, positions these companies well due to their strong regional presence. This paper will explore these issues in the context of ownership and geographic distribution.