Ronan Bolton Features in New Books Network Podcast

16 Aug 2023

In this podcast Ronan Bolton discusses the origins of liberalised electricity markets in Europe. He discusses the different ways in which these markets were developed across European countries during the 1990s and the political aspects of liberalisation processes. The potential future for the liberal market model is discussed in the context of the European energy crisis and the transition to low carbon energy systems.

The podcast draws on Ronan’s book ‘Making Energy Markets: The Origins of Electricity Liberalisation in Europe’ which charts the emergence and early evolution of electricity markets in western Europe, covering the decade from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.

Liberalising electricity marked a radical deviation from the established paradigm of state-controlled electricity systems which had become established across Europe after the Second World War. By studying early liberalisation processes in Britain and the Nordic region, and analysing the role of the European Economic Community, the book shows that the creation of electricity markets involved political decisions about the feasibility and desirability of introducing competition into electricity supply industries. Competition introduced risks, so in designing the process politicians needed to evaluate who the likely winners and losers might be and the degree to which competition would impact key national industries reliant on cross-subsidies from the electricity sector, in particular coal mining, nuclear power and energy intensive production. The book discusses how an understanding of the origins of electricity markets and their political character can inform contemporary debates about renewables and low carbon energy transitions.

Listen to the podcast here