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EU presents Energy Strategy

A few days ago EU Commissioner for Energy Guenter Oettinger unveiled the new EU Energy Strategy. It is long overdue and I expect it heralds serious commitment on supra-national level to tackle the energy problems that Europe faces. And they are not one and two in the field of policy, politics, technology and the related effects for the environment.

The strategy has 5 key priorities as well as a number of action points that if developed and implemented correctly can make a lot of difference for the lives of the 500 million EU citizens.

The energy commissioner rightly points out that energy challenges are a key test for strong Europe (internationally influential and internally coherent). In his own words : “Putting our energy system onto a new, more sustainable and secure path may take time but ambitious decisions need to be taken now.”

Linking European gas and oil networks are key for preventing crises like the one from 2009. Right now the 27 EU countries negotiates about their energy supply separately while at the same time if any economy is hit by shortage or similar problem neighbors and EU trade partners suffer together. It is high time we overcome this division and put a single market for energy together with energy liberalisation on the political agenda. There will be many obstacles as the 27 member states have opposing views about supply, upgrades, diversification and strategic (even security) priorities related to production, storage, transit, etc.

However the political hurdles (with Germany traditionally at the forefront against market liberalization in the energy sector) can be overcome through the existing competition and single market rules in the EU, as well as through the near 40 court cases between EU institutions and the national capitals. Another way to move energy integration forward is work in technical areas. This involves long-term cooperation between countries in terms of technology and trans-border transit.

In a previous post I wrote that a supranational authority would be best fit for international energy negotiations. Even if this seems an unlikely development at the moment, the way to get there definitely goes through the priorities pointed out in last week’s strategy. Let’s pick up a few, the least controversial

  1. renovate old buildings – this will cut energy consumption and bills and possibly create new jobs
  2. use efficient technologies in the energy sector and in distribution
  3. install Carbon Capture and Storage facilities – it is expensive, but how else can we meet the 2020 targets?
  4. Invest heavily in using energy flows, rather than exploiting energy stocks
  5. connect the grid – building interconnectors between neighbouring states will hedge crisis risks
  6. increase storage capacity, especially for gas

These are only some of the measures that will make us more energy independent, will cut our energy bills and decrease greenhouse gases. It is not easy, and the issue is highly political as there will be winners and losers both among tax payers and industry. But if we do not get down to business seriously now, the price we will pay later will be much higher. As it always happens with delayed reforms.

As the 21-page document says “The price of failure is too high”

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