EU Commission puts forth proposals for Energy Union and 2015 global climate deal

The European Commission on Wednesday (Feb. 25) disclosed the awaited Energy Union package, including a strategy and a roadmap to achieve an EU “resilient Energy Union with a forward looking climate change policy” and a communication on the Paris Protocol, a “blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020”, that formalizes EU’s position on the new global climate deal to be discussed at COP21 in Paris at the end of this year. The policy documents are accompanied by a Communication reporting on EU’s progress towards the minimum electricity interconnection target of 10%.

The Paris Protocol translates the EU emission reduction target for 2030 agreed in October into the bloc’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the future UNFCCC deal.

Countries “ready to do so” have to submit their INDCs by the end of March, and all UNFCCC Parties shall communicate their plans to reduce GHG emissions “well in advance of COP 21”. No INDC has been submitted to the UNFCCC so far (more information on the INDCs process on the UNFCCC dedicated webpage). The Commission’s document calls for China, US and other G20 countries “as well as high and middle income countries” to submit their INDCs by the first quarter of 2015 while “greater flexibility should be provided to Least Developed Countries (LDCs)”.

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The Energy Union is among the top-priorities of Junker-led EU Commission, who in October 2014 appointed Maroš Šefčovič to the brand-new role of Vice-President for Energy Union (after the first choice for the role, Alenka Bratušek, was rejected by MEPs after her parliamentary hearing).

 

The Commission’s communication sets the fists steps (detailed in the “Roadmap for the Energy Union” document covering approximately the next five years) towards the creation of an integrated European energy market that should provide a “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy” by reforming the current system.

 

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Among the other features listed in Wednesday’s document, the EU Commission envisions the Energy Union as “a sustainable, low carbon and climate-friendly economy that is designed to last”. In the Commission’s words, the EU

 [..] have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels, an economy where energy is based on a centralised, supply-side approach and which relies on old technologies and outdated business models. We have to empower consumers through providing them with information, choice and through creating flexibility to manage demand as well as supply. We have to move away from a fragmented system characterised by uncoordinated national policies, market barriers and energy-isolated areas.

The Energy Union strategy outlined by the Commission involves several aspects of the EU energy development: energy security, diversification of supply, cross-border connections, competition rules and regulations, consumers’ interests, energy efficiency, decarbonization of electricity, household and transport sectors, EU leadership in renewable energy development, research and innovation on low-carbon technologies and sources (including renewables, energy efficiency, smart-grids, energy storage, CCS, nuclear, biomass and biofuels), governance and monitoring processes.

The Commission summarized the actions needed to build the Energy Union in fiteeen points:

  • implementation and strict enforcement of existing energy and related legislation, in particular the 3rd Internal Energy Market Package;
  • diversification of EU supply of gas and increasing its resilience to supply disruptions;
  • ensuring compatibility of intergovernmental agreements with EU legislation;
  • supporting the implementation of major infrastructure projects, particularly the Projects of Common Interest;
  • review of the current market design, in order to create “a a seamless internal energy market that benefits citizens, ensuring security of supply, integrating renewables in the market and remedying the currently uncoordinated development of capacity mechanisms in Member States”;
  • review of the regulatory framework, in particular the functioning of ACER and the ENTSOs;
  • developing guidance on regional cooperation;
  • increasing transparency on energy costs and prices as well as on the level of public support  through biennial reports on energy prices and actions to protect vulnerable consumers;
  • review of all relevant energy efficiency legislation in 2015 and 2016 to underpin the target of reaching at least 27% energy savings by 2030;
  • developing a ‘Smart Financing for Smart Buildings’ initiative to make existing buildings more energy-efficient, facilitating access to existing funding instruments;
  • developing a proposal for a comprehensive road transport package to speed up energy efficiency and decarbonisation in the transport sector;
  • proposing legislation to achieve the GHG reduction target  for 2030 both in the Emissions Trading System and in non-ETS sectors;
  • delivering a new Renewable Energy Package in 2016-2017,  including a new policy for sustainable biomass and biofuels and legislation to ensure cost-effective achievement of the 2030 EU renewable energy target;
  • developing a “forward-looking, energy and climate-related R&I strategy to maintain European technological leadership and expand export opportunities”;
  • ensuring a “strong, united” engagement with parteners, by revitalising  the EU’s energy and climate diplomacy, strengthening EU energy cooperation with third countries,  promoting access to energy resources and to foreign markets for European energy technology and services.

The “successuful implentation” of the wide Energy Union plan “depends on the political commitment of all actors concerned, including EU institutions, Member States, the European Investment Bank and other stakeholders, including at regional and local level”, the Commission says.

According to an analysis published by European Voice, all EU countries agree on the idea of an energy union but they have different views on practical aspects and priorities.

EU energy ministers are expected to discuss the Commission’s plan in Brussels on 5 March and at an informal gathering hosted by the Latvian Presidency in mid-April, before formally taking a position at the Luxembourg energy council on 11-12 June. EU environment ministers will also consider the Commission’s plan at a meeting in Brussels on 6 March.

(Image: Jean-Claude Juncker presents the new Commission to the Parliament, Oct. 22, 2014. Photo credit: © European Union 2014 – European Parliament. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license, on Flickr