In a press conference held on February 16th, the European Commission presented a package of measures on the Energy Union Strategy. The strategy, unveiled in February 2015, lies on five different goals: supply security, a fully-integrated internal energy market, energy efficiency, emission reductions and research and innovation.
The Commission’s statement focuses on supply security and gas. As gas consumption represents 23% of the European energy mix, it became a priority in the energy strategy. Considering that the EU is importing more than a half of its gas consumption, the challenge is to diversify the gas suppliers. Importations of gas come from Norway (30%), Russia (39%) and Algeria (13%). The Sustainable Energy security package relies to a great extent on international dimensions and on the neighbours energy policies.
In particular, the new set of measures includes moderating energy demand, increasing energy production including renewables, further developing a fully integrated internal energy market, as well as diversification of energy sources, suppliers and routes. Further, the proposals aim to bringing more transparency to the European energy market and creating more solidarity between the Member States.
To stress the urgent need for such measures, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Union, Miguel Arias Cañete mentioned the crisis of 2006 and 2009, when important disruptions of Russian gas supplies to Europe resulted from the Moscow and Kiev’s disagreements on prices. He also mentioned the refugees related issues at the boarders of Europe, assuming that Europe is still too vulnerable to gas disruptions.
On the web, he welcomed the Energy security package as a big step to our secure, clean energy future.
— Miguel Arias Cañete (@MAC_europa) 16 Febbraio 2016
As for the integration of the gas market, the EU domestic policy on energy is supposed to push it forward by promoting a regional approach instead of the current national one. Enhancing transparency and competition on the market would lower the price for European consumers. In order to strengthen this commitment, the Commission will have a right to analyse and give advices on any new agreement on gas taken by member states with a third country. This type of control will particularly focus on the compliance with competition rules. This process will occur before the negotiations or the signature of agreements.
Complying with the targets settled by the Paris agreement on Climate Change, the Energy Union Strategy focuses on energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions. As heating and cooling of European buildings represents half of the EU’s energy consumption, a highlight was made by the EU representatives on energy efficiency in buildings through the Heating and cooling strategy. 75% of the energy used for heating and cooling buildings are powered by fossil fuels. The European strategy includes renovating, integrating electricity systems with heating and cooling systems, increasing the share of renewable, reusing energy waste from industries, and involves consumers and industries.
The Pro-liquified natural gas statement made by the Commission raised criticism among green groups. According to BusinessGreen, they blame the EU for setting aside renewable energies. The emphasis on LNG, presented as a solution to gas importation dependency, is denounced since natural gas isn’t a renewable energy, therefore not sustainable. On the contrary, the gas industry has welcomed the action plan delivered by the members of the Commission.
(Image: Berlaymont Building, Brussels. Photo credit: Stuart Pinfold/Flickr)