EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Europe to attack global warming, dependence on outside supplies and inefficiency in the energy business

  • January 21st, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-oil-refinery.jpgEuropean leaders have set out the terms for a drive towards cutting dependency on fuel supplies outside Europe; reducing global warming, and in the process making the EU energy economy more efficient and sustainable.

A package on energy was published on 10 January by the European Commission, based in part on a preceding strategic review, to form the basis for high level decision making in the coming months.

The European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, at a media conference, identified three challenges to be met by a set of new governmental measures:

• Security of supply
• Climate change
• Competitiveness in the energy economy

Key goal

The key to progress on those goals, he said would be the central objective: to reduce Europe’s own green house emissions by 20%, by 2020 – set against 1990 levels.

(In international negotiations Europe will press for more; a 30% reduction by developed countries).

“This core target or benchmark is for two obvious reasons, sustainability and security of supply,” Commissioner Piebalgs said.

“Meeting it will require a move to a low carbon economy, dramatically increasing the level of clean and local energies.

“This can also be a driver for out competitiveness; it can put the European economy at the forefront of a new global sector.

“The Strategic Energy Review describes it as catalysing a new industrial revolution.

“Changing the course of the EU’s energy policy is not simple but it is essential; if we do not act by 20230 we would be using more energy, importing more oil and gas from Russia and OPEC, and emitting more CO2 than today”.

The energy package is in seven parts: (1) reforming the internal market for energy; (2) “solidarity” and co-ordination of countries’ activities; (3) and (4) renewable energy and energy efficiency; (5) and (6) research and clean coal and sequestration, and (7) the nuclear option.

Internal market

After a detailed investigation the European Commission says it is ready to act to break up ownership groupings held over from the time of state monopolies in energy, to let in more players and facilitate new mergers and co-operation across borders. It also plans to harmonise the powers of regulating authorities, and harmonise cross-border standards. As well it will be proposing laws on greater transparency, network security and a new Energy Customers Charter.

It was disclosed in tandem with the energy package on 10 January that companies in the energy sector have been under investigation for possible breaches of competition policy, in an Energy Sector Competition Inquiry, exposing them to heavy penalties.

“Solidarity” and Co-ordination

Through European Directives, the EU states are to have a co-ordinated system for handling energy production, transport and supply. This will include plans for handling any energy supply emergency, and for a new supply infrastructure, revision of the oil stocks system, and examination of the feasibility of a gas stocks system.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency

A second key target has been set for 2020: Lift the use of renewable energy to 20% in the EU’s energy mix by that date.

Measures for achieving the targets will be up to EU member states, e.g development of non-carbon power sources including solar or wind, and biofuels for transport.

The member states will have to work towards a binding goal for the transport sector, non- petroleum fuels to be 10% of total usage by 2020, nearly a ten-fold increase on present levels.

Clean coal and sequestration

The European Commission has signaled the concentration of large research funds on an Energy Technology Initiative. It will work on control of emissions from use of coal, and the capture of discharged carbons – for possible other uses. It wants the construction of up to twelve clean fossil fuels demonstration plants by 2015.

Nuclear

Use of nuclear fuel is up to member states but documentation for the new energy plan gives it qualified support, as one of the cheapest low carbon energy sources, with stable costs already providing 30% of EU electricity. The problems with waste and decommissioning are recognised. The plan would require that any reduction of nuclear use be accompanied by a phasing in of other non-carbon systems.

Politics of change

The energy package is the product of concerted work within the European Union, based on investigations and debate organised by the executive body, the European Commission.

It is being recommended for the heads of government of the 27 member countries to accept, for government action, in the first half of this year.

The first summit of the European leaders is set for 25 March in Germany, with another mid-year in Brussels.

The President of the European Commission, Joe Manuel Barosso, supported the attachment of a high priority to energy supply in the program of the current Presidency of the European Union., held by Germany.

He said:

“Let’s look at the facts:

“World temperatures are rising with the last eleven years including the ten hottest since records began.

“The EU’s energy import dependence is on course to jump from 50% of total energy consumption today to 65% in 2030.

“Oil prices have risen six-fold in the last seven years.

“Recent power blackouts and current disputes between Russia and its near neighbours have given real meaning for millions of our citizens about our energy independence.

“We need new policies to face a new reality.”

Reference:

“Commission Proposes an integrated energy and climate change package to cut emissions for the 21st century”; EC Brussels, 10.1.07: IP/07/29

Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition Policy; “Introductory remarks on the final report of the Energy Sector Competition Inquiry”; Press conference, 10.1.07. SPEECH/07/04, http://europa.eu.int/rapid/

A full set of documents on the energy package is available on the website of the Directorate General for Energy and Transport. “Energy for a Changing World”, http://ec.europa.eu/energy/energy_policy/imndex_en.htm

Comments are closed.