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Electrifying Europe

Electrifying Europe: The Power of Europe in the Construction of Electricity Networks

Vincent Lagendijk
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    Electrifying Europe
    Book Description:

    Nowadays most consumers are aware of the European dimensions of their electricity supply. But what ideas lie behind this European network? In constructing electricity networks, Europe performed a Janus-faced function. On the one hand, a European network would bolster economic growth and peace. On the other, economic growth through electrification would increase military potential.By combining a wide array of rarely used sources, this book unravels how engineers, industrialists, and policymakers used ideas of Europe to gain support for building a European system. By focusing on transnational and European actors, this book is a valuable addition to existing national histories of electrification. It is an original contribution to the history of technology, while also making the role of technology visible in more mainstream European history.

    The empirical chapters show how ideas of European cooperation in general became intertwined with network planning during the Interwar period, although the Depression and WWII prevented a European electricity network from being constructed. The subsequent chapters describe the influence of the Marshall Plan on European network-building, focusing on both its economic and military aspects. The last chapter portrays how the Iron Curtain was contested. The troubled expansion of networks and capacity in Western Europe provided an underpinning for political rapprochement with the East in the 1970s and 1980s. Political and economic turmoil after 1989 accelerated this process, leading to an interconnected European system by 1995.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2120-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Business, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Chapter 1 Introduction: In search of European roots
    (pp. 15-38)

    Gales blazed across the Alpine region as usual during autumn. In the early morning of September 28, 2003 a severe storm forced a tree to sway near the Italian-Swiss border. Unfortunately, the branches tripped a power line. The load of the disturbed line is automatically divided among other cables. These transmission lines were already utilized close to their full capacity. To relieve them from excessive load, the Italiantransmission network operator(TSO) decided to cut down electricity imports by 300 MW. Twenty-four minutes later another tree hit a high voltage line. This second incident overloaded remaining transmission lines between Italy...

  2. Chapter 2 “Opening the doors to a revolution”
    (pp. 39-68)

    A dry winter following a hot summer in 1921-‘22 led to a lack of water, which seriously decreased hydroelectricity production in Italy.¹ In the Po Valley, in the northern part of the country, this forced local governments to take action. The provinces of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Venice – Italy’s industrial heartland – appointed special commissioners to ration the available electricity to industry. Besides this rationing, Switzerland supplied extra electricity. Technically this was possible, as transmission lines crossed the Italian-Swiss border and Italy already imported electricity from Switzerland. Electricity suppliers in France took part as well. French coal-fired plants in Nancy and Vincey...

  3. Chapter 3 Planning a European network, 1927-34
    (pp. 69-106)

    In 1932 the journalL’Européenfeatured a front-page article by Marcel Ulrich.¹ Ulrich was laureate of the FrenchEcole de PolytechniqueandEcole des Mines de Paris.² At the time he also was president of UNIPEDE.³ He earlier served as president with CIGRE. Ulrich thus was distinguished French engineer but also a wellknown figure within the international electro-technical community. His article certainly appealed to the latter community, as Ulrich described on-going discussions about a European electricity network. Engineers proposed such schemes starting in 1929, which received supported from the electro-technical community. About at the same time, the International Labor Organization...

  4. Chapter 4 (Re)Constructing regions, 1934-51
    (pp. 107-156)

    In April, 1949, a group of European engineers was welcomed by their American hosts, and presented to the press at a location not far from the White House in Washington D.C. The conference they attended there kicked off a five-week tour of power plants and control centers around the United States. The visitors from Europe, most of them system operators in their respective countries, flew across the Atlantic to see firsthand the American state-of-the-art in the electricity industry. This Technical Assistance (TECAID) Mission was an integral element of the electricity programs set up within the framework of theEuropean Recovery...

  5. Chapter 5 Securing European cooperation, 1951-2001
    (pp. 157-212)

    In 1963 theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO, 1949) commissioned a temporary working group of experts to study electricity production and distribution of electricity in wartime situations. The working group consisted of internationally distinguished electricity experts, including former TECAID-ers R. Marin (Italy) and G. Bardon (France), as well as founding members of the UCPTE W. Fleischer (FRG) and chairman J.C, van Staveren (Netherlands).¹ After meeting five times between 1963 and 1964, the group drew two conclusions. First, they insisted they should rely upon existing forms of collaboration, and did not regard a “supranational coordinating body” as useful.² Second, the group’s...

  6. Chapter 6 Conclusion: From cooperation to competition
    (pp. 213-222)

    The first two chapters of this book both opened by examining exceptional circumstances in Italy. In each case, Italy’s electricity supply was under threat. International solutions were sought to overcome “local” problems in 1921 as well as in 2003. In the first case, collaboration with French and Swiss electricity producers ensured that Italy’s North remained provided with sufficient electricity. Engineers seized upon the event to argue for more international cooperation, by building more international interconnections and liberalizing legislation in order to allow more cross-border electricity flows. Their rationale was that it would enable mutual assistance in cases like in 1921,...

  7. Sources and bibliography
    (pp. 223-244)