Energy Transition in the Baltic Sea Region - 2nd June Book Launch

Energy Transition in the Baltic Sea Region - Understanding Stakeholder Engagement and Community Acceptance

Farid Karimi is a senior researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Bioeconomy at Novia University of Applied Sciences, in Finland. Michael Rodi is a professor at the Faculty of Law and Economics at the University of Greifswald, in Germany.

Together Karimi and Rodi edited and published the book titled “Energy Transition in the Baltic Sea Region: Understanding Stakeholder Engagement and Community Acceptance”, which is now available online as an Open Access downloadable resource.

Novia UAS interviewed Karimi to find out more about the book, its upcoming launch event on 2nd June, and about the area of research in general.

Summary of Book

Could you please tell a little more about the book?

The book is a volume that Michael Rodi and I edited together. The book basically analyses the potential for active stakeholder engagement in the energy transition of the Baltic Sea region. In order to bolster clean energy deployment, the idea was to ask a lesser-known questions about bottom-up activities.

In a nutshell, this book tries to shed light on the bottom-up and grass-roots activities for energy transition in the Baltic Sea region. We have chapters covering different countries, different technologies, and different experiences.

It is an interdisciplinary book, covering mostly social sciences and law. Additionally, the book covers multiple countries, such as Poland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, with some chapters on the overall Baltic Sea Region. The book is also not only focused on experiences from the energy sector. For example, there is a chapter about the housing sector in Finland.

What is the main purpose of the book?

In the book, we try to be very pragmatic because academic books tend to be very theoretical. We wanted to cover the relevant theories, and contribute to the theory development, but we also provide hands-on policy recommendations. Some of the recommendations are “low hanging fruit” and some are long-term policies which require more in-depth planning.

In each chapter there are policy recommendations and in the final chapter, which is the conclusion, we have a more concrete recommendation for the whole region. One of the main issues we argue, is that actually it is possible to be energy independent in some of the smaller countries, such as Finland Estonia or Latvia, with the contribution of their grass-roots activity.

It is small, but all these drops make an ocean and that then activates people to participate. We can have a big role in energy independence and energy transition. By energy transition, I mean transition from fossil fuel based mainstream energy sources, and energy productions, to CO2 neutral or clean energy production.

We wanted to specifically study public acceptability and bottom-up activities which can be critical for ensuring successful outcomes in an energy transition. It is essential to understand how to unlock the potential for public community and “prosumer” participation for facilitating renewable energy and clean energy transition.

Could you elaborate on what “prosumer” means?

So, “prosumers” are those who produce energy on a minor scale. They use it and sell it also to the grid and the word therefore comes from “consumer” and “producer”.

When it comes to the social studies of energy, the reason we use public acceptability, instead of public acceptance, is because public acceptance is something that is mostly coming from top-down whereas public acceptability is from bottom-up.

For example, if we have a project on a governmental level and we want to make it “acceptable”, we talk to the public about it and explain why we need the project to happen and try to convince them to accept it. The issue is that it’s more democratic if we go towards public acceptability, which means that the people want the project in their own community or people initiate the project.

Focus on Baltic Sea Region

Why did you decide to focus on the Baltic Sea Region for this book? What do you think makes the Baltic Sea Region so interesting?

In our introduction chapter, we argue that this region is so interesting because there is lots to be learned from it by the rest of the surrounding areas, as well as the rest of the world, such as the Middle East and North America.

Some very important breakthrough events have happened within the Baltic region. For instance, the first ever decommission nuclear power plant, which was commissioned right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is located in northeast of Germany, in the city of Greifswald.

A controversial aspect in the region is the Nord Stream pipelines, which brings a huge amount of gas from Russia to Germany. I have personally been working on energy security and security for last three years. Within my work, I have been arguing that Nord Stream 2 is a significant security risk within the region, particularly to Eastern European countries. Another interesting aspect of this region is that this pipeline was really encouraged by Germany, and there was a huge opposition to this pipeline, by Poland, and the Baltic states. Additionally, within the EU we have to have the same policies when it comes to energy and energy security. These are promoted by the EU, but then we argue how this project is against the spirit of energy policy of the EU.

We have a region with a very unique geographical situation where we have lots of islands, vast amounts of remote areas and isolated regions. Additionally, we have different countries with different economic situations and ambitions. Also, the three biggest energy emitters, in the world, are located within this region, namely Russia, Germany, and Poland.

All these aspects make the Baltic Sea Region an interesting case study for energy transition. However, they are also aspects that can connect us all, and we put more emphasis on the EU side of the region, as well as on the EU allies of the region, which means that we excluded Russia in this case. However, we discuss how to deal with Russia [this book was finished before the Russian invasion of Ukraine].

The idea was that now the power is available for the people to grab. Therefore, what do we, as ordinary citizens, need in order to be active and able to contribute to this process? What kind of policies do we have already? What kind of policies are missing? What kinds of regulation are there? Which regulations are missing? What are the political and social challenges? As well as, of course, what are the opportunities?

Connection to Novia UAS

Could you tell a little more about how this book is related to the studies on offer at Novia UAS?

I’m affiliated with the Faculty of Bioeconomy at Novia University of Applied Sciences. Alongside my colleagues, both here in Raasepori and in Vaasa, I conduct research on energy related topics from a social scientist perspective. My colleagues in Vaasa are doing more technical, applied research related to sustainable energy technologies and I focus more on the social questions, from the perspective of policy and politics.

In Raasepori, I teach courses like Bioeconomy innovation and Conflict management and participatory process. I am going to use some chapters of the book as reading materials for these two courses as energy is an essential part of them.

Additionally, we have an entire programme dedicated to energy technology in Vaasa. With that in mind, this book is especially relevant for engineers who are training. It is essential for them to also have a bit of understanding from other aspects energy, such as policy, regulation, and society. This is especially important because if we have this new technology, but the laws and regulations stay the same, then nothing will change.

Therefore, it is important for Novia UAS, both the engineers in Vaasa and the students on other campuses, to understand the concept of energy transition, the effects on society, and how people can contribute to tackling climate change.

Book Launch

When and where can people buy the book?

We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from Stiftelsen för Ekenäs Sparbank which meant that we were able to publish the book as Open Access. It is also available as a physical copy on the publisher website (Routledge) and other online bookstore like Amazon, but we wanted to make the sure that everyone had access to the book.

The Open Access of the book allows NGO’s, students, and researchers without large budgets to have the access to the case studies within the Baltic Sea Region and it makes the book more functional since they can implement aspects of the recommendations, meaning that the book will actually be utilised before it requires updating.

Book launch in Raasepori and online on 2nd June

You can attend the book launch and seminar online or on site at Novia’s campus in Raasepori. The seminar will include discussions about the book and there will be a welcome speech delivered by Örjan Andersson, President of Novia UAS, and a keynote from Thomas Blomqvist, Minister of Nordic Cooperation and Equality.

Register for the book launch event via https://novia.mira.se/Events/164/Apply.


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