EU energy policy

Commission unveils Energy Union plans

Jürgen Heup, 10 Mar 15
Last year born idea for an Energy Union, primarily as a response to the Crimea crisis and Russian aggression over gas contracts, take concreate shape. The European Commission says, the concept has evolved into a strategy which can "save European consumers up to EUR 40 billion a year". For the opposition it is a "missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe."

At the end of February, the European Commission announced its proposals for a “a crisis-proof energy union with a future-oriented climate protection strategy”. The roadmap’s goals include greater independence from Russian gas supplies, seeking to reduce a number of EU countries’ reliance “on a single external supplier” for energy, according to the strategy paper.

The Commission hopes to achieve a more diverse supply by means of energy imported from northern Africa and increased use of liquefid natural gas (LNG). In addition, it wants to be involved in negotiations for member states’ gas supply contracts with non-EU countries in the future. Another key point on the agenda is an overhaul of the electricity market, with a focus on cross-border expansion of power lines. The commission lists twelve states which do not meet the EU’s energy union target of making at least ten percent of electricity production capacity available across borders.

The list includes heavyweights such as Poland, Spain and Great Britain. This target alone could save European consumers up to EUR 40 billion a year, according to the Commission. However, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete calculates that it would cost around EUR 40 billion over the next five years to implement.

Cañete’s estimate of the total cost of the expansion and modernization required by Europe’s energy infrastructure is EUR 200 billion by 2020. The European Commission’s roadmap also envisages an increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix, and a more needs-oriented energy supply.

However, its primary concern is reducing energy consumption, stating that energy efficiency should be considered a source of energy in its own right in order to enable it to compete with energy generation and help bring about a low-carbon society. Furthermore, it aims to secure a leading role for the EU in the technological development of renewable energies.

Speaking of the package, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that many EU citizens were worried about energy security. He wants “the energy that underpins our economy to be resilient, reliable, secure and growingly renewable and sustainable.”

Meanwhile, Claude Turmes, energy spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament, called the paper a “missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe”, claiming that what is needed are not new supply routes for gas, but a clear signal for renewable energies and energy efficiency.

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