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2012 Vol.3
Energy Autonomy in Europe


The pursuit of”energy autonomy”in Europe began about 40 years ago with efforts in some localities to address energy conservation, highly efficient use of energy, and renewable energy. Those who started the movement were referred to as pioneers. Although their activities and the path they aimed to take were mocked as being too idealistic and unrealistically Utopian, their influence has since spread following, for example, the accident at Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in 1986 which had global impact and international conferences such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. The small waves the movement made in society became a social tsunami when feed-in electricity tariffs on renewable energy were introduced in the early 1990s in countries such as Germany. Then in 2011, the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant shook the world. This accident will serve only to encourage the spread of the movement even further toward energy autonomy. Currently there are 129 municipalities and localities in Germany that strive to achieve”energy autonomy”with renewable energy, a policy that is supported by the national government. The number in Austria has reached 85. The definition of “energy autonomy”and the activities involved vary across countries and localities. In this paper, I attempt to explain”energy autonomy” focusing on the policies, legal system, and social conditions of Germany, where significant developments are being made in the efforts to achieve autonomy. Case studies of leading “energy autonomous localities” in five European countries are introduced, as discussed in detail in the work Oushu no enerugii jiritsu chiiki (Takigawa, Ed., 2012).