Different Energy Visions and Implications


Christoph W. Frei, Director, Energy, World Economic Forum; Adjunct Professor, International Energy Policy & Strategy, EPFL, Switzerland

Energy policy is policy and hence a form of social action. It is negotiated among different interest groups whose positions can be explained by their specific visions. Social action needs to be understood at its roots: at the level of individual motivations. Max Weber introduced the “Ideal Type” as a tool to analyze and explain the origin of social action. In order to improve our capability to formulate meaningful strategies that take us towards a secure and climate-friendly energy future, we benefit from advancing our understanding of the vision ideal types.

History suggests that energy policy priorities can be stratified similarly to the way Maslow structured his famous pyramid of human needs. In his publications Christoph Frei has argued that access to energy, supply security, energy costs, environmental issues and social acceptance are not subject to trade-off, but to a hier¬archy that underlies the importance of satisfying lower order needs before addressing the higher order ones. he demonstrates the hierarchy with an ”energy policy needs pyramid” based on historical evidence. He uses the pyramid to analyse the viability of specific energy policies.

In the seminar, Christoph Frei will build on these two points and ask how questions related to energy security and climate change are linked, what policies can bring us closer to a low carbon future, and what role the “localization of energy policy” plays in this context. He will sketch out complementary low-carbon energy vision ideal types and present how the key stakeholders position themselves with respect to these ideal types. Finally, he will identify barriers that we need to overcome on the path ahead and lay out strategies that will bring us closer to either of the visions.

About the speaker
A Swiss citizen born in 1969, Christoph Frei has graduated in Electrical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich (ETHZ). He continued his studies with a Master of Science in Energy at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a Master in Econometrics at the University of Geneva, and with a European Master in Applied Ethics at the Ethics Centre of the University of Zurich. After finishing his doctoral thesis at the EPFL and at Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen he worked for the Centre for Energy Policy and Economics before joining the World Economic Forum in 2001. He was promoted Director, energy industries & strategy in 2005. Since 2006 he also holds a part time position as adjunct professor on international energy policy and strategy issues at the Energy Centre of EPFL. Christoph has published a number of energy policy related papers in relevant journals and newspapers and leads projects related to Energy Security, Energy Poverty, Carbon Economy, Sustainable Biofuels, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative.

Venue: UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, Conference Room, 4th floor

Date: 26 April 2007

Time: 16:00


UNU-MERIT