The initial session of the LTS series starts in the Summer Term 2016!

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Iris Eisenberger from the Institute of Law at the University of Natural and Life Sciences organises, together with Univ.-Prof. Dr. Konrad Lachmayer from the Sigmund Freud University, the Lunch Time Series on Law, Technology and Society (LTS).

The first lecture, on the 21st of April 2016, was given by Prof. Franz Reimer (University Gießen), who spoke on "Resource efficiency as a category of environmental law?“.

On the 25th of May 2016, Wolfgang Urbantschitsch, LL.M. (Chairman of Energy-Control Austria) spoke about "Energy markets – current issues of regulation“.

The last lecture of the semester, “The World Bank’s role in programmes regarding cross-border rivers,” was given on 16th of June 2016 by Dr. Christina Leb (Department of Global Water Practice, The World Bank). 

Resource efficiency as a category of environmental law?


Franz Reimer is professor for Public Law and Theory of Law at the University Gießen. His lecture entitled "Resource efficiency as a category of environmental law?“ was the first in our lecture series.

Humanity lives beyond its means. We consume more resources than the planet can provide in the long term. After having elaborated on this initial problem, Prof. Reimer took a closer look at the meaning of “Resource efficiency.” The European Law follows a selective and technically-oriented approach. Prof. Reimer illustrated this by using the example of the efficiency requirements for washing machines or dishwashers. The goal is to achieve optimal resource usage in terms of maximum output using minimal input.

Prof. Reimer considers this approach too narrow. A promising strategy is supposed to limit and reduce the usage of resources. Instruments of efficiency need to be embedded in a concept of “sufficiency.”  This is the only way in which resource efficiency can be a reasonable category of environmental law.

The subsequent discussion was lively and provoked further questions. Which instruments strengthen sufficiency? Is there a way to implement this concept in our consumer society? Prof. Reimer referred to our ecological footprint as a regulatory link. A particularly effective instrument is pricing, even though it is politically difficult to enforce. More expensive resources can provide the right incentives to economize. 

(Andreas Huber)

The presentation is available here: "Resource efficiency as a category of environmental law?"

Energy markets – current issues of regulation


Dr. Wolfgang Urbantschitsch, LL.M. (Brügge), chairman of Energy-Control Austria since March 2016, gave a lecture on the current issues of regulation in energy markets on the 25th of May 2016 at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna.

In the beginning of his talk, Urbantschitsch summarized the tasks of E-Control, a government agency created to regulate the energy market. E-Control was constituted in 2001 in order to support governmental agencies in the process of opening the energy market for competition. The domain of this public agency is consequently very broad: E-Control is responsible for providing the framework for competition taking place in the energy market, market surveillance, and improving market transparency.

After this introduction, Urbantschitsch spoke about specific issues, especially the topic of decentralised energy production: Today in Austria we have many small energy generation plants such as solar panels or windmills and fewer big coal-fired plants than used to be the case. Urbantschitsch calls this “democratization of energy supply”. This means that less electricity is obtained from public electricity networks. This may be a step in the direction of “energy self-sufficiency” but it does not mean that electricity is available at any time. 

In rural areas a decentralized energy supply is not that unusual anymore because single-family houses do not raise special legal problems. The planned amendment of the Elektrizitätswirtschafts- und –organisationsgesetzes will offer the possibility of installing photovoltaic systems in multi-family houses and thereby contribute to those technologies becoming more common in cities as well. When the number of consumers who are capable of supplying their needs by themselves increases, network operators face new challenges: the distribution network needs to be redesigned in order to allow consumers to feed their surplus electricity into the grid. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary that electricity can flow in two directions within the grid, which is already causing grid investments.

The discussion following Dr. Urbantschitsch’s lecture dealt with the possible effects of decentralized energy production on society and the network operators. The development of storage media will play an essential role in the evolution of the energy grid. They could actually provide an independent form of energy supply. Total isolation from the energy network endangers the system of a collaborative and supportive energy market. This issue arises because all those who do not have the means for domestic production will bear the costs for the public network.

(Thomas Buocz/Stefan Steininger)

The presentation is available here: "Markets of energy – current issues of regulation".

The World Bank’s role in programmes regarding cross-border rivers


Dr. Christina Leb, Senior Water Resources Specialist at the World Bank held a lecture entitled “The World Bank’s role in programmes regarding cross-border rivers” on 16th of June 2016 at BOKU University. Her lecture was the successful closure of the “LunchTimeSeries on Law, Technology & Society” (LTS).

Cross-border rivers constitute 60% of the worldwide resources of running water. Population and economic growth, climate change and general water shortage challenge the water industry and can only be overcome globally. Therefore, the World Bank plays an important role, according to Dr. Leb.

The World Bank monitors processes, makes investments and imparts knowledge. The main goal is to improve the situation of so-called risk-basins such as the area around the Indus River by global water utilisation projects. Investments are supposed to facilitate a functioning water industry, particularly in Africa. Sustainable growth should be promoted, climate resistance should be ensured and poverty should be combatted. In doing so, the World Bank operates neutrally and supports dialogue. Neighbouring countries are to be informed about a future project. Furthermore, the World Bank requests an environmental impact assessment for every project, including sanitary, safety, social, cross-border and global environmental aspects.

Dr. Leb explained that the dual role of the World Bank becomes evident in terms of loans: On the one hand, the World Bank acts as an international development organisation; on the other hand, it represents an investment bank. Especially the latter role requires guaranteeing loan repayment at best.

The audience picked up this decision making process during the subsequent discussion and questioned the World Bank’s neutrality in terms of granting loans. Dr. Leb emphasised the geopolitical interests behind water as a resource. It is all the more important that the World Bank mediates between governments.

(Julia Kandler/Lisa Müllner)

The presentation is available here: "The World Bank's role in programmes regarding cross-border rivers".