Working towards a sustainable, competitive and secure energy



Andris Piebalgs, Energy Commissioner, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium


Europe is entering a new energy landscape. Gas and oil prices have nearly doubled in the last two years. Europe’s import dependency  is forecast to rise to 70 per cent by 2030, as our hydrocarbon reserves dwindle and demand rises. Our infrastructure must improve; €1 trillion is needed over the next 20 years to meet expected energy demand and replace ageing infrastructure. And our climate is changing; global warming has already made the world 0.6°C hotter.

These challenges are common to all European citizens and countries. They require a common European response. The EU is well placed to act. We have the buying power that comes from being the world’s second largest consumer of energy. We are one of the most energy efficient regions. We are global leaders in new and renewable forms of energy, the development of low carbon technologies, and demand management.

And yet Europe’s approach on energy in the past has been disjointed, failing to connect different policies and different countries. That must change.

That is why the European Commission published last March a Green Paper on developing a coherent European Energy Policy. Our proposed aim is secure, sustainable and competitive energy. If the EU can take a common approach, and articulate it with a common voice, Europe can lead the global energy debate.

The paper argues that an integrated, European Energy Policy can maintain Europe’s competitiveness, safeguard our environmental objectives and ensure our security of supply. There are no easy answers. But the Green Paper will launch a major public debate on how to deal with the new energy reality.

So what does the Green Paper propose?

• Unity: Europe needs to speak with a common voice worldwide – particularly with the main producers and consumers. We must use the size of our market and the range of our instruments to manage our energy dependency, diversify our energy supplies and export our energy model. A new partnership with our neighbouring suppliers, including Russia, is essential. We must capitalise on the shared interest of Europe and its main neighbouring energy suppliers in secure, open and growing energy markets. And we must intensify our cooperation with the other main partners, in the Middle East, Asia and America.

• Integration: We must create a truly single European electricity and gas market. This will help deliver on security, competitiveness and sustainability. Open markets benefit consumers. They create the long term platform essential for investment. They provide the correct, pan European context for the current merger activity. Europe prospers in energy, as in other areas, when it lowers barriers, not raises them.

• Solidarity: With integration should come solidarity. Europe must respond better to fluctuations in energy markets and supply, as well as rethink our approach to emergency oil and gas stocks.

• Sustainability: We must accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy, using both new energies and existing ones. Europe needs to set the framework for different low carbon energies to thrive. We cannot afford to promote one to the exclusion of others. Renewable energies must continue to grow in our energy mix. They cannot replace hydrocarbons. But they can, in the case of biofuels, be literally blended with them.

• Efficiency: We must change not just energy supply but energy demand. There is considerable scope to use energy more efficiently, to the benefit of the climate, consumers and our security. This is not about turning the heating down. It is about developing technologies and habits to change Europe’s energy model and support sustainable growth. We should continue to develop energy efficiency standards for the heavy consumers of energy, such as transport and buildings.

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