Thursday, December 31, 2009

EU's new energy commissioner - what to expect?

A while back, I wrote about my incomprehension at cabinet appointments in the new governing coalition in Germany. People seem to have been assigned to positions atop fields that they have not necessarily been very involved in, much less specialized in.

Now, a certain Mr. Guenther Oettinger has been appointed as the new European Energy Commissioner, replacing Latvian Andris Piebalgs.

What can we expect from Öttinger? Well, he used to be governor of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where I live. And while a lot of photovoltaics is going up here -- the state is second in terms of photovoltaics after only Bavaria -- that success is not the result of his leadership, and the state government in Stuttgart has been blocking wind power over the past decade, even to the point of hampering projects accepted by locals. Öttinger has close ties to nuclear and coal through his relations to EnBW (Energie Baden-Württemberg), one of Germany's four biggest utilities (we have hundreds -- I was once told the figure was around 900).

Given that Piebalgs was also known for his pro-nuclear stance, I wonder if there will be much of a change at all. But mainly, I wonder why such people are appointed to such positions. What qualifies this guy to be head of energy specifically?

On a more personal level, I do not look forward to seeing this guy in the news. Öttinger has one of the most whining voices I have ever heard, and despite the attempts to present photos of him with smiles at Wikipedia, the man seems to have as much trouble mustering a smile as most of us do touching our toes without bending our knees.

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